Obama: Meeting with gays, still falls short on former talk
President Obama takes a slow course which gay activists see as a break with soaring rhetoric from the campaign trail days. This is the reality of politics, though, and should come as no surprise to seasoned activists, in any case.
I had always predicted Obama would not be an aggressively or openly "pro gay" President. He is African American. He comes from the school of Chicago politics. He was elected in a fourth turning saeculum crisis. Why, then, should he be another Clinton? Or moreso than he?
President Barack Obama plans to address the nation's largest gay rights group this weekend in an effort to mollify an uneasy Democratic constituency frustrated with the White House's slow pace.
Obama plans to address Saturday's Human Rights Campaign fundraising dinner gala, the organization and the White House announced Monday afternoon.
"It is fitting that (Obama) will speak to our community on the night that we pay tribute to his friend and mentor Sen. Edward Kennedy, who knew that as president, Barack Obama would take on the unfinished business of this nation — equal rights" for the gay community and for "every person who believes in liberty and justice for all," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
The dinner falls on the eve of the National Equality March, expected to draw thousands of gay and lesbian activists to the National Mall. Many have been critical of Obama's slow pace on redeeming campaign promises to end a ban on gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military and pushing tough nondiscrimination policies.
"Eleven months after his election, he has failed to deliver on any of his commitments to gay Americans, but even worse has been his refusal to engage around these issues," said Richard Socarides, who advised President Bill Clinton's administration on gay and lesbian policy.
"What he needs to do now is engage and deliver," said Socarides. "Spend some of his political capital on ending the gay military ban, a hugely symbolic issue. And with no intellectually sound arguments left against it, come out squarely for gay marriage equality."
Obama wasn't likely to go that far, though, despite a rocky relationship with gay grass roots activists. He has taken a slow and incremental approach to the politically charged issues. He has expanded some federal benefits to same-sex partners, but not health benefits or pension guarantees. He has allowed State Department employees to include their same-sex partners in certain embassy programs already available to opposite-sex spouses.
But that remains far short of his campaign rhetoric.