Obama touts queer rights achievements in HRC keynote address
President Barack Obama blasted GOP presidential hopefuls and touted his accomplishments as a queer-rights advocate at the Human Rights Campaign’s 15th annual national dinner in Washington D.C. Obama was the keynote speaker at the dinner, which had more than 3,000 attendees. He cited his work for queer rights including passage of a hate crimes bill, an executive order on hospital visitation rights and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Obama also criticized GOP presidential candidates for the now famous incident where the crowd booed a gay soldier during a debate.
“We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says it’s OK for a stage full of political leaders – one of whom could end up being the President of the United States – being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens,” Obama said. “You want to be Commander-in-Chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.”
Obama also used the occasion to call for help and asked for the support of the queer community in the upcoming campaign season.
“So, yes, we have more work to do,” Obama said. “And after so many years — even decades — of inaction, you’ve got every right to push against the slow pace of change. But make no mistake — I want people to feel encouraged here — we are making change. We’re making real and lasting change. We can be proud of the progress we’ve already made.”
Obama pledged to address the nationwide issue of teenage bullying.
“I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady are standing right by them every inch of the way,” Obama said. “I want them to know that we love them and care about them, and they’re not by themselves. That’s what I want them to know.”
He did not make any significant policy change statements and his stance against marriage equality remains unchanged. He also failed to address the anti-gay measures in North Carolina and Minnesota.
Also in attendance were New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who received recognition for his work in pushing for marriage equality in his state, and actress Sarah Jessica Parker.
It is too bad that the president didn’t have the clarity of his scripture about booing a gay soldier when his administration compared same-sex marriage to incest and pedophilia in 2009.
In the federal case of Smelt v. United States (Case No. 8:09-cv-00286-DOC-MLG), the president appeared to “believe in standing silent” when his administration argued that marriage equality would overturn state-court cases of the 1950s and 1960s which prohibited marriages of “first cousins[,]” a “16-year-old female” and an “uncle to niece[.]”
The president appeared to “believe in the kind of smallness” that argued that marriage equality would jeopardize “scarce government resources” like “federal and state benefits programs[.]” Smallness, indeed.
Gay blogger John Aravosis (http://www.americablog.com/2009/06/obama-justice-department-defends-doma.html) wrote on June 12, 2009 that the argument was “despicable, and gratuitously homophobic” and that the president “didn’t just argue a technicality about the case, he argued that DOMA is reasonable. That DOMA is constitutional. That DOMA wasn’t motivated by any anti-gay animus. He argued why our Supreme Court victories in Romer and Lawrence shouldn’t be interpreted to give us rights in any other area (which hurts us in countless other cases and battles).”
In consideration of the damage that the argument could have done to our legal agenda beyond marriage, it was actually a good thing that the case was dismissed this year because the plaintiffs didn’t show how they had suffered a specific injury by the federal DOMA law. It could have been much worse.
The president was right about one thing. His actions in this one little court case came dangerously close to “making real and lasting change.” No doubt.
I cringe at the thought that all those shortsighted HRC diners gave this president a standing O. Fools.