Barack Obama was elected to the presidency in part because of number of promises he made to the American people. Not the least of those promises were commitments to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community about expanding legal protections for them, ending the military’s infamous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.
But here we are, almost a year into President Obama’s term, and he has taken no real action on any of these fronts. In a speech delivered back in October, Obama committed to working with Congress and the Pentagon to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell “at the right time.” Those four words are now forming the legacy of his administration.
Unfortunately for him, the “right time” has passed. The president had a very small window in which he could have used the mandate of his election and the popularity he enjoyed. As his presidency continues and his approval ratings continue to slide, his ability to force Congress and the Pentagon’s hands keeps diminishing. It is no secret that health care reform is this administration’s priority; when push comes to shove, other initiatives will become bargaining chips to be bartered in order to get the support to pass the health care bill. And the initiatives that support America’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community will be the first to be traded away.
It is imperative, now more than ever, for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer activists and for the community as a whole to push the president to honor the promises he made to secure his election. Equality isn’t a convenience, it’s a necessity. The Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are blights on the face of American civil liberties and need to be repealed immediately.
Politically speaking, the GOP is currently weaker than it has ever been, with fewer seats in both houses of Congress. That will undoubtedly change in 2010 — whether for the better or the worse remains to be seen. That uncertainty demands that these initiatives be pushed now, before the situation has a chance to deteriorate.
I voted for President Obama, and still believe that he was a better choice that Senator McCain. I must admit, however, that the “Change You Can Believe In” hasn’t been realized. This president is continuing with politics as usual, choosing a slow route instead of delivering on the great changes he promised and that are much needed in America today.