Obama? Not impressed.

I’ve been wanting to start this blog for a while, and the last thing I expected to start it with was a political rant.  However, my mom sent me a link to this interview with Senator Obama in the Advocate and it annoyed me enough to need to rant about it.  

I do appreciate that Obama is finally speaking to the “gay media,” and he does agree with me on some key issues.  I get that Hillary has pretty much shot herself in the foot, and as much as I really want her to be President, at this point I doubt it’s going to happen (in 2008, anyway).  But the bottom line is, I don’t trust Obama.  I’m not voting for McCain, but I haven’t made up my mind yet on whether I’m going to vote in the first place.  I know I should, and I get the whole “not voting is voting for the guy you don’t want” argument, but frankly, it makes my stomach hurt and my skin tingle to vote for Obama.

For a while, I haven’t trusted him on gay issues.  The whole scandal with Donnie McClurken, which got far less media coverage than I expected, made me very worried.  Why didn’t the campaign just apologise?  I don’t think Obama himself is anti-gay.  I’ve never thought that.  However, I do think that he would, in some situations, be willing to abandon his stance on gay issues.  I think Hillary was bold and upfront about gay issues in her campaign.  She said things I didn’t agree with, but she was straightforward.  Obama’s doing too little too late.  He knows he has to have a stance on LGBT issues, and he takes one, but it’s couched in vague, general language.  Yes, I think it would be great if our country were at a point where “equality” in general terms could be used instead of addressing issues that plague specific communities.  It would be great if sexuality didn’t matter.  But unfortunately, it does, and I’m not convinced that when pushed comes to shove, Obama won’t just let gay issues slide in favour of “general equality” – aka, not ruffling feathers

 I don’t think it’s fair to say “silence” on gay issues. The gay press may feel like I’m not giving them enough love. But basically, all press feels that way at all times. Obviously, when you’ve got a limited amount of time, you’ve got so many outlets. We tend not to do a whole bunch of specialized press. We try to do general press for a general readership.

Fair enough.  I understand that the candidates have limited time.  If that were all it was, I’d shut up and blog about things I’d much rather be talking about (believe me, politics doesn’t normally get me going like this).

So I actually have been much more vocal on gay issues to general audiences than any other presidential candidate probably in history.

Uh.  I’m not sure this is true.  I think Hillary’s probably spoke as much about gay issues as he has to general audiences.  Either way, framing it like that seems a little fishy to me.  Let’s say, for example (I’m making these numbers up entirely), Hillary talked about gay issues 20 times with gay audiences and 10 times with “general” audiences.  Now let’s say that Obama talked about gay issues 20 times with general audiences.  Guess what?  That’s still fewer times.  

I guess my point would be that the fact that I’m raising issues accordant to the LGBT community in a general audience rather than just treating you like a special interest that is sort of off in its own little box — that, I think, is more indicative of my commitment.

Gay rights are not “special rights.”  If that’s what the Senator is saying, I wholeheartedly agree.  However, the fact is, though gay people are asking for rights that all people should have, the fact is that we don’t have some of those general rights, just like other minorities and women.  I don’t think we should be put in a box, but you do need to address certain rights in a particularised way.  Then, on whether he’s seeking a full repeal of DOMA: 

I don’t know. But my commitment is to try to make sure that we are moving in the direction of full equality, and I think the federal government historically has led on civil rights — I’d like to see us lead here too.

That response seems a little wishy-washy to me.  I understand that you need votes to pass legislation, or to repeal it, but did he actually say anything in those two sentences?  That’s strikes me as a “I probably won’t be able to do any more than Clinton says she’s going to be able to do up front, but I’m going to be vague about it so that it looks like I’m seeking something broader, and can cover my arse when I only get exactly what she was promising.”  Call me a cynic.
On marriage vs. civil unions:
As I said, I think the LGBT community has every right to push for what it thinks is right. And I think that it’s absolutely fair to ask me for leadership, and my argument would be that I’m ahead of the curve on these issues compared to 99% of most elected officials around the country on this issue. So I think I’ve shown leadership.
I have no idea what he’s saying here.  Before this quote, he says essentially that it wouldn’t be his job to choose that “marriage” is needed above and beyond civil unions, it would be the job of the LGBT community.  Fine, okay.  So then we say what we want is marriage (hypothetically).  Will he support us?  Well, he’s ahead of 99% of officials.  Uh, good for you?  I’m sorry, but elected officials aren’t exactly a model of gay rights support, seen as a group.  That’s not really an answer.
Then he does a little “Yes, I know gay people” deal, and a complete non-answer to the McClurkin issue.  Again, I’m not saying that Obama does not personally support gay people, or gay rights.  I just think that if there is a situation where he has a choice between gay rights and some other victory that’s important to him, or gets into a political tough spot, he’s going to ask us to fend for ourselves and not put his full support behind the gay movement.  (Though I do hate referring to the “gay movement” as one big blob, I think for some of these general things like non-discrimination there’s at least general agreement that we need some sort of legislation.)
Finally, I think there’s something in what he doesn’t say.  There’s no mention of hate crimes legislation, or education at all.  I had a high school friend who was brutally beaten in school because of his orientation and gender presentation, and the school system’s response was lukewarm at best.  They addressed the violence, but ignored the roots.  This has to stop.  Teachers need to not dodge the issues, and make it clear that there are gay and lesbian students in every class.  Violence and ridicule is unacceptable.  Until this message gets through to at least some children and teenagers across the country, I think we are living in a backwards nation.

About Avory

Avory Faucette is a queer feminist activist, writer, and public speaker. Zie graduated from the University of Iowa with a JD in 2009, focusing on international human rights and gender/sexuality issues in the law. Hir current work focuses on queer identity, policy, and marginalized identities under the queer umbrella. As a genderqueer person, zie comments frequently on non-binary identity, transgender and genderqueer issues, and media coverage of these populations. Zie also speaks at colleges, universities, and events on transgender and queer issues and conducts trainings on related topics.

Posted on May 10, 2008, in law & politics, queer and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Obama supports a repeal of DOMA, Hillary does not. I can’t trust Hillary on LGBT issues.

    http://www.queersunited.blogspot.com

  2. thanks for blogging about this article i had never read it…..

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