John Berry Offers Disappointing Forecast of Obama's LGBT Agenda
John Berry, the White House director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking gay official in the Obama administration, offered The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld a relatively bleak look at the action that has thus far been taken and the road ahead for LGBT issues, attempting to cloak his words in a veil of assurance that, given the President's actions thus far, may very well fall on deaf ears.
Eleveld's exchange took place backstage at Capital Pride where Berry, who gave an impassioned speech at the Justice Department last week on the importance that the federal government do more to ensure civil rights for LGBT Americans, told Eleveld he'd "been authorized [by the administration] today to say everything that I’m going to be saying."
First, a bit of positive news: "...the Obama administration hopes to secure passage of Hate Crimes this coming week and that President Obama is soon to announce an initiative pertaining to providing federal LGBT employees with benefits equivalent to those provided to their heterosexual counterparts."
On a backroom deal with LGBT groups: "One of the first things I want to be clear about is that there are a lot of charges that there’s been some secret deal or backroom deal, there isn’t one. There isn’t one, there is no secret deal. We are working in partnership with all LGBT groups, and all groups are doing what they should be doing, which is passionately representing their unique interests."
And on the DOMA brief: "Finally, I want to talk to you about the DOMA brief. Our strongest argument against “don’t ask, don’t tell” is that we stand with the truth. And that we, more than anyone, know the cost of lying and the terrible pain it invokes. This president took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to decide and choose which laws he enforces. He has to enforce the laws that have been enacted appropriately and that he has inherited. It would be wrong for me or any of our community to advise him to lie or to shirk his responsibility. He’s doing his job. He has made clear that he stands for the repeal of DOMA. It will be part of this administration’s agenda to accomplish that act. We ought not waste energy and angst attacking him when we should be focusing the energy and effort on getting 218 votes in the house and 60 votes in the Senate, and that’s where we ought to target the energy and the strength of this community and this president is with us, this is our agenda and it’s his agenda."
Richard Socarides actually says just the opposite in his Americablog piece.
Berry said the administrations goals are hate crimes, ENDA, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and DOMA, in that order.
With this clarification: "Now, I’m not going to pledge -- and nor is the president -- that this is going to be done by some certain date. The pledge and the promise is that, this will be done before the sun sets on this administration – our goal is to have this entire agenda accomplished and enacted into law so that it is secure." Asked repeatedly, Berry refused to say whether these agenda items may be scheduled for Obama's second term. Just this: "We hope we get eight years, but if we’re limited to four, we’re still going to try to pursue this agenda."