Everyone says, “Zack, I don’t think it’s fair for you to complain about Obama. He’s one of the most supportive presidents for gay issues we’ve ever had.” Rhetorically, it’s true.
But he hasn’t done squat. This week we got another round of “too much on his desk” and “at the right time,” but we’ve barely seen any substantial action from him on any of the issues. Yes, war, health care, and the economy are big complex issues that affect our entire nation, but in the meantime, a whole bunch of us are still living our lives without equal rights.
I thought the cold open from this week Saturday’s Night Live was totally fair. If you missed it, take a look:
Obama talks a good talk, but he seems to dawdle around without any solid action. I’m not even always crazy about his talk. That DOJ memo this summer was unacceptable; he’s responsible for it whether he wrote it or not. And I’m kind of tired of tolerating the way he hedges on the m-word. Wake up, Mr. President. Civil unions don’t cut it. You don’t want Bill Clinton to look smarter on gay issues than you do when we’re expecting you to undo all the compromises he made during the 90’s.
I think this weekend will be very telling for the Obama administration in terms of queer issues.
Obama is now speaking at the Human Rights Campaign dinner Saturday night. As Pam Spaulding pointed out yesterday, the tickets to the dinner were $250 and most of the leadership in HRC are white men. While HRC might be one of the most prominent gay lobbies, a lot of us don’t feel like it effectively speaks for our community (particularly all the trans folks who got hung out to dry with a non-inclusive ENDA proposal in 2007). So what does it say if Obama shows up for this narrow slice of the movement, but then doesn’t show any support for the huge grassroots march on Sunday because of a golf game?
I think it’s time our attitude changes a bit. If you’re not standing with us, then you’re in our way.
And regardless of whether he supports the march, the expectations for his HRC appearance are incredibly high. If he shows up to speak and has no progress to deliver—no bone to throw—I think that will be the last straw and will certainly paint the march the following day in a different light. (UPDATE: Some pro-gay groups are planning to protest Obama’s speech, saying “the time for talking is over.”)
I hope this weekend is a gamechanger for the movement. It’s time to be relentless. It’s time to paint Obama into a rainbow corner where the only thing he can do to appease us is support full equality and support it now. We have at least three more years to push him into action, but I don’t see a good reason we should have to wait another day.
I’m not a graphic designer, but here’s my visual representation of putting the pressure on Obama:
It’s time to hold Obama to his word. I hope you’ll join me if you’re able for the National Equality March this Sunday in Washington, DC. It’s time we turn the page of history. It’s time for full equality now. Nothing less will do.