WaPo: Obama ‘Too Cute by Half’ on Gay Rights Issues

Greg Sargent at The Plum Line looks at this week's announcement from the White House that Obama won't be signing an LGBT non-discrimination executive order in the near future and accusations that it was "a political move to fend off criticism from right-wingers who will never support him anyway."

Writes Sargent: Barack_obama

But it does seem clear that the White House needs to figure out how it’s going to handle these issues — Obama and his advisers are coming across as too cute by half here.

There’s no denying that Obama and his advisers have a very good overall record on gay rights. But on this issue, and on gay marriage — two hugely important topics to the gay community — there’s too little clarity and too much of a whiff of excuse-making and political calculation.

Obama is trapped in a difficult dynamic that is in some ways the product of having done the right thing in other areas involving gay rights. Because of his real accomplishments in those areas, gay advocates are fully convinced he really believes in full equality for gay and lesbian Americans — and only grow angrier and more impatient when he hedges or equivocates on key issues. I can see why White House advisers would find this dynamic frustrating, but the simple truth is that it isn’t going away until he stops doing it.


  1. says

    As a British person living in Germany I am often baffled, by Americans.Now if he signs an executive order, if my memory is correct it can me rescinded by the next administration, therefore I think it would be wise that this is made an issue (executive order) if the votes are not there after the election.

    The same as DADT, If A Bachmann came in that would have been the first to have been struck down.

  2. newday says

    Obama will be Obama, and no matter how hard gay activists try to bully or shame him into submission, he will do things his way and on his schedule. On the bright side, he’s done a helluva lot for the community, and the potential in a second term is worth waiting for. The alternative is just too dire to consider. People need to think about this seriously before throwing hissyfits now.

  3. Polyboy says

    Some of these “activists” couldn’t win a national election if their lives depended on it.

    Based on what’s happening to women…their lives do.

    We are targets. They will kill us for points. If Prop 8 has taught me anything, it’s that the masses will screw us over.

  4. opinionated says

    Ugh. Can we leave this man alone with this items until after the election? Forgive me oh great gay community but there are also OTHER issues out there. Please, just vote for other person if your only political focus is gay rights issues. Your issues along with the progressive strides made by this President will all be set back another 4 years thanks to your petty squabbling. If in a year, fine, but forgive me for defining myself more for other democratic issues than just being a gay man. Sheesh. Whew, coffee time said bitter party of one.

  5. Jeremy says

    What happened to patience being a virtue? As close as this issue is to us, I think we can agree there are more pressing matters for the president at the moment, and if we want him to have the opportunity to come around, we’ll need to allow him to do so in a calculated way.

  6. says

    The Dims have been painting themselves into this corner since the 1970’s; Obama is just the one holding the brush as they run out of dry floor.

    I won’t give once cent to the Dim party or their presidential nominee until (s)he and the party platform support my values.

  7. Brim says

    Obama is going to have a tougher go this round. His base doesn’t really support him anymore. He will pick up a lot of independent votes though. His record on foreign policy, gay rights and healthcare reform (which was very poorly managed, though the right thing to push through) are quite abysmal with the exception of nailing Bin Laden and ending DADT. And he ran – RAN – on making government more transparent. That just isn’t happening. I am a far lefter. I am not sure if I will vote or not. I don’t like voting for things that aren’t in my interest or that don’t reflect my values. But I do know that the numbers are going to drop off for him drastically and the economy won’t be the only reason for that.

    So you can say he has more important things to do. That’s fine. On election day, his base will find other things to do I’m afraid.

    And yes, the Dems really have no capability for long term planning.

  8. chris255 says

    NDAA 4th amendment rights go bye bye.
    HR 347 your right to peacefully assemble and redress your government go bye bye.
    He signed on to this without a quarrel.. oh I’m sorry a little IOU note saying hes not really going to do it – BUT WHY SIGN IT?!
    Now you can be strip searched for any reason.
    Obama’s LGBT “accomplishments” were forced upon him by threats of the courts finding government policy unconstitutional. It took multiple simultaneous lawsuits.
    When he did do it, he did it half assed and minimalist. LGBT spouses are treated like they don’t exist which puts a terrible burden on LGBT families. They are still outcast from recognition. There is still equal opportunity recourse that LGBT members can take since it’s not codified into the non discrimination. You can still be discriminated upon because you are gay. Just not dishonorably discharged solely because you are. It’s a hugely missed opportunity.

    I for one am no longer going to settle for “the alternative is worse”. Obama is NOT going to magically change into super pro gay Obama after the election. He will support a states right to hate as in the RMA. If your state does not support MARRIAGE – that does NOT include civil unions – then you are still SOL.

    This man does not deserve our money, our time or our vote. Our best bet is to focus on true progressives in the house and senate. You rights will still be non existent until at least 2016 or 2020. ENDA is not happening with this man.

    Europe and the rest of the civilized world pity us on how we are handling LGBT rights.

  9. Brim says

    And he needs better PR. He has to connect with people and run on the things he has accomplished. That message isn’t out there. He doesn’t seem like the same man that ran in 2008 – his speeches lost the fire and passion and TRUTH they used to have. He just seems like another politician at this point. Romney has better chances than everybody suspects because even his political enemies will vote for him without fail.

    Just saying.

  10. says

    No one should be surprised at this point that Obama holds his strategy cards close to the vest. And executive orders aren’t his style. Whether those are good or bad, smart or stupid things is in the eyes of the beholder. The best indication of where Obama is going with gay rights is how his DOJ is now dealing with DOMA. Hint: he’s on our side. John Boehner and Mitt Romney are not.

    The problem is that tongue-tied spokespeople keep saying the President’s policy is clear when, to anyone but the President, it isn’t clear. Then it becomes a matter of how much clarity you require from a President on gay rights leading into an election with a Republican who will have no choice but to be anti-gay. And, on non-discrimination, how effective you think an executive order would be.

    It’s surprising to me that gay rights groups close to the White House would be stunned by this–I wonder if they’re truly stunned or if the political game playing is happening on both ends?

  11. Caliban says

    “Wahhhh! I’m not getting everything I want so I’m going to stamp my little feet, hold my breath, and throw a temper tantrum until I end up with NOTHING! That’ll show ’em!”

    Then when Romney gets elected and appoints the first SCOTUS Justice with a direct line to Salt Lake City (You think he ISN’T going to put Mormons in as many positions as possible?) you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done and your ideological “purity.”

  12. says

    that’s a pen in Obama’s hand, not an effing Magic Wand.
    Have you all forgotten the criminal conspiracy that was the Bush Administration?
    Have you forgotten the criminal Inquisators, Bybee (now a judge) and Woo ( now lecturing in law, ha ha ha)?
    What exact progress did we make under Bush ?
    With Obama our rights will continue to push outward,opinion will come with us and make the pressure for change irrisestable.

    Is this Community seriously going to allow a Republican in by default ? And then Ruth Bader Ginsberg will retire and the Repugs. will have the absolute majority in SCOTUS for a generation.
    Is that what we want ?
    Time to get out of bed gay boys.

  13. Matt says

    Would you Obama-bots stop defending him?! Get over it; your holy messiah is causing more ire than support, and by and large, it’s YOUR fault because YOU let him get away with it!

  14. Michaelandfred says

    I think it’s a huge mistake. “If” elected, he will soon become a lame duck. If he doesn’t win big, if he doesn’t energize his base AND the middle, there will be no change in the congressional make up we’ve had for the last two years..also lame duck. Like Mitt Romney actually being a centrist, almost everyone believes Obama actually DOES support our issues, so all this waffling only makes him look weak and politically calculating.

    Since most believe (hope) he’ll do all these grand things after the election, how about firing up the country and leading on these issues and show the American public, like Cuomo did in New York, how American it is to support equal rights in this country. This is going to be a close election. Instead of being timid and pray that things go his way, how about doing what he does best, engage and energize the electorate. We are NOT a losing issue anymore. Grow some balls and lead the country where you want them to go.

    There has been since 1965 a federal government executive order about contractors that several presidents have added to. Race, religion, gender….. This order has been expanded several times regardless what congress has done for the rest of the country, which is usually lag behind. Adding sexuality to it is a natural extension that is well within, well within, the Presidents job.

    The right is never going to love you. The rest will if you lead. THAT is your major talent and it has been missing totally, on almost every issue, in your first term. Change We Can Believe In, kind of, sort of, maaaybe……

  15. Jack says


    Your post is somewhat contradictory. On one hand, you say that you define your political views as broader than just gay issues.

    Which I agree with, as I am the same way.

    However, on the other hand, you imply that it’s still not OK to vote for someone else, because that will set gay issues back.

    So what you’re saying is, you should compromise in voting based on who is best suited to the totality of your political views. Except if it affects gay rights. Which is it?

  16. Brim says

    Jack: I haven’t forgotten the Bush admin. I think you mean John Yoo. See, part of the problem is that Obama chose not to prosecute Yoo.

    And he chose not to reveal the files that came out of Abu Ghraib. And Guantanamo is still open. He’s really no better when it comes to foreign policy.

    Of course I don’t want a Romney government. I don’t really want an Obama one either. Hence the hesitation about voting. I am looking at the big picture. And gay rights hasn’t really been his strong suit either.

  17. Caliban says

    A politician being “calculating” to get elected? Say it ain’t so!

    It isn’t going to do us any favors if this election becomes a referendum on gays. The difference between an opinion poll and an election is that pollsters seek people out to ask their opinion, go TO them. It doesn’t necessarily follow that those same people go to the voting booth to register those opinions in the only way that really counts, casting a ballot. Much of the support for gay marriage or gay rights initiatives is “soft support” that can be superseded by other concerns; a Republican or “independent” who favors gay rights may very well vote for an anti-gay rights candidate if they align on other issues: taxes, health care, jobs, etc.

    We do not have a history of success when it comes to gay rights referendums, at least so far. Things may be changing but we aren’t there yet. It’s absolutely true that civil rights for a minority should never be subject to a majority vote but that isn’t our current reality.

  18. Michael says

    Some of us in the LGBT community are acting like total f@gs. What would be the smarter route for us? Have him sign an executive order which gets overturned when he loses the election due to it or have him get reelected and come out in favor of gay marriage and Edna? Wake up people and stop crying us all some friggin river.

  19. Brim says

    The smarter route is to come out swinging. He just had 4 years. The first two he also had the house. He could have come out swinging very left on all these issues and settled in the middle.

    Don’t make the same mistake twice. If you do not have equality under the law, you do not have the rule of law. It is the cornerstone of law.

    Your argument is purely hypothetical. Why can’t he sign the order, have his base support him, and create some lasting human rights legislation?

    Because it isn’t his priority. He could have done this 4 years ago.

  20. ratbastard says

    Of course he is; he’s a politician. He comes first. They’re all at their core uber narcissistic and politics is just an avenue for their narcissism. What’s so hard to understand?

  21. says

    @brim : yes, I stand corrected on the Yoo issue. That’s the faux counsel I meant.
    And yes to the points you make about the rule of law.

    I guess Obama should have been a lot more decisive over the last four years…..but he did have the greatest economic catastrophe created by TinPot Bush to deal with……and he has saved the USA , and consequently the global economy, from total disintegration. He does deserve great credit, IMHO.
    I could not bear the thought of four years of a Romney…….the SCOTUS issue alone is enough to convince me……and some of us have a vital interest in repealing DOMA and transnational marriages.
    Absolute equality is a work in progress; it really kills me to hear my brother gays not supporting a great President.

  22. Malcolm says

    Obama is much smarter than the people pushing for this during an election year. He wants to win VA, NC, OH, FL, IN, MI, and PA, all states that do not even have enough political will and support to pass basic gay rights laws, let alone something as “radical” as this. The people pushing this are only concerned about their narrow agenda, not the wider good of reelecting Obama.

  23. Malcolm says

    “Some of these “activists” couldn’t win a national election if their lives depended on it.”

    Thank you, dude. They advise radical things that would send Obama and the entire Democratic Party off a cliff, and engage in immature tantrums when they don’t get their way. How childish and myopic.

  24. Malcolm says

    “Since most believe (hope) he’ll do all these grand things after the election, how about firing up the country and leading on these issues and show the American public, like Cuomo did in New York, how American it is to support equal rights in this country.”

    Uh, because the nation is not like New York. Far from it. In fact, most states don’t have enough support for gay rights to pass a simple non-discrimination law. Just this month, Anchorage voters decisively defeated a basic gay rights law. Obama obviously knows the nation well, and is not going to engage in high stakes culture warrior policy at this critical time. Smart man.

  25. BobN says

    Do people even remember what 2009 was like?

    Sure, Obama could have fixed everything…

    Anyway, I don’t get all these claim that there’s lack of clarity. He’s being very clear. He’s going to fight for passage of a bipartisan, nationwide, inclusive ENDA in the Congress. That’s pretty clear. Whether it’s doable is up to, among other things, us, including those folks at LCR and GOProud who seem to want him to lose the election…

    He did it with DADT. There was all sorts of whining about ending DADT by executive order. He didn’t do it. Imagine the campaign rhetoric today if he hadn’t gotten the Congress to pass the repeal.

  26. says

    Hassia – that’s my canadian perspective, too.

    don’t we want LONG-LASTING solutions, and not some “stroke of a pen” nonsense that will simply be undone should the bigots vote in a bigot of their own with his own pens?

  27. Mike says

    I’m gay and a lefty, and Obama has disappointed and pissed me off many times, BUT we cannot leave the Supreme Court in GOP hands. The liberals on the court are among the oldest and sickest (and Scalia is 75). We cannot let Romney pick their replacements!

  28. Caliban says

    In my experience from working with Mormons in several places one of their priorities is the hiring, advancement, and promotion of other Mormons to positions of influence and power in whatever organization or business they can, regardless of actual qualifications for the position. Those mandatory Mormon tithes are worth it in the long run due to these member-of-the-club appointments and promotions. Look at the FBI or the Secret Service for concrete examples of this policy in action.

    ALL groups do this to some extent, gays included, but think about Mormon social and political attitudes as a whole and the prospect of Mitt Romney having the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices, Department of Justice personnel, and all the many other positions the President is able to either appoint outright or nominate candidates for.

    Then ask yourself whether the difference between Romney and Obama is really as insignificant as some are trying to make it out to be.

    A “bigoted” statement? Perhaps, but so be it. That doesn’t make it any less true.

  29. says


    1(a). Despite shameless Obambot lies to the contrary NO ONE EVER suggested that Obama using his unequivocal legal authority to freeze discharges in the name of national security under federal law 10 USC 12305 would alone end DADT nor that legislative repeal efforts should, then, be abandoned. This recycling and redeployment of their “permanent solution” excuse by Obama, Inc., is the political equivalent of “pink slime.”

    1(b). The facts around DADT repeal work AGAINST believing in Mr. Obama’s integrity and worthiness to “do the right thing when he can” because, inexplicably, he insisted on continuing to fight to overturn the ruling in the Log Cabin case that military discrimination against gays and lesbian is unconstitutional. In short, a future Repug president or Congress could bring back such a ban because MR. OBAMA kicked the legal door back open. Even if it is not, because Mr. Obama betrayed his original promised and backed Pentagon homophobes’ 2010 demand that the nondiscrimination [IN the military] clause be gutted from the repeal bill, gay and lesbian service members are TODAY denied the protections against harassment and discrimination automatically provided, e.g., blacks and women, under the Military Equal Opportunity Program.

    2(a). In 1975, what was then called the United States Civil Service Commission removed their previous ban on gay federal civilian employees. Repug Presidents Reagan and Bush fils did NOT reverse that policy.

    2(b). While one of his federal agency managers tried to ignore it, Repug George Bush fils did NOT reverse Clinton’s Executive Order formalizing the Civil Service Commission’s policy.

    2(c). Mr. Obama himself used his executive authorities to order those protections extended to transgender federal civilian employees in 2009.

    3. NO ONE has suggested that the effort to pass ENDA be abandoned upon his issuing any order to protect LGBTs employed by federal contractors. ENDA would, of course, include MILLIONS more employees in the private sector.

    So any Obambot squealing that there’s no point in doing this is CHOOSING to deny such protections to hundreds of thousands of LGBT federal contractor employees NOW just because they MIGHT be reversed in the future. That is as stupid as saying one shouldn’t go to work today because he might be fired next year.

    And leads to the questions: to WHOM is your REAL allegiance, and are you familiar with the term “Beaten Wife Syndrome”?

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