Mixed signals from the White House in recent days seem to indicate the answer is no.
In many ways, 2009 might appear to be a red-letter year for supporters of gay rights. In addition to being the year in which Iowa, Vermont and Maine will begin (or have already started) to allow same-sex couples to marry, it is also the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots (which served as the birth of the modern gay rights movement), and the beginning of a new era in the White House — led by a young president who's promised to repeal the policy barring openly gay people from serving in the military. Gay Or Straight? Body Type And Motion Reveals Sexual Orientation, Study Suggests
But in the midst of this past week's annual Gay Pride celebrations, and in light of all the recent pro-gay rights statements that have been made by political figures such as Connecticut's Chris Dodd,* it's hard not to notice the fact that Barack Obama has, in fact, done very little to further the rights of gay people in America.
The White House, of course, might tell you a different story. Most likely, they'll point out that memo signed by Barack Obama last week — a memo which, ostensibly, extended benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. Gay Marriage In The News
But let's take a closer look at that memo. First, it's a memo, as opposed to an Executive Order. This means that whatever it says potentially expires when the next president takes office. Second, it doesn't immediately grant rights to same-sex partners that are already available to opposite-sex couples, but instead allows for a 90-day review period to determine what those rights are whether they are actually grantable. Third, the memo does not identify itself as a measure toward ensuring equal rights, but instead states that: "Extending available benefits will help the Federal Government compete with the private sector to recruit and retrain the best and the brightest employees."
We don't mean to sound completely unappreciative of what the president did in signing that memo. After all, he is only the second president to issue a directive targeting gay Americans. And compared to the last such directive ("don't ask, don't tell"), this one's about a thousand times less offensive. But at the same time, we can't help but wonder, isn't the main goal in any directive to do — not what is inoffensive — but to do what is right?
We think so. But then again, we don't work for the government.
* Senator Dodd stated last week: "I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman...But the fact that I was raised a certain way just isn't a good enough reason to stand in the way of fairness anymore."