Has President Obama lost the right to tell gay Americans he is fighting for us? Is it disingenuous of President Obama to say, “I will continue to fight alongside you,” when he refuses to fight for marriage equality? On Wednesday, Obama held his third annual White House reception observing LGBT Pride Month, and told supporters and attendees, “bottom line is, I’ve met my commitments to the LGBT community. I have delivered on what I promised.” Perhaps he has delivered on what he promised. But is that enough, when much of the rest of the country seems to be embracing, as the President said Wednesday, “the idea that everyone ought to be treated equally and everybody deserves to be able to live and love as they see fit?”
Obama told the roomful of LGBT advocates, writers, and activists, “You’re fighting for the idea that everyone ought to be treated equally and everybody deserves to be able to live and love as they see fit.”
“Now, I don’t have to tell the people in this room we’ve got a ways to go in the struggle, how many people are still denied their basic rights as Americans, who are still in particular circumstances treated as second-class citizens, or still fearful when they walk down the street or down the hall at school,” the President bellowed. Did that sound disingenuous to you? It did to me, when the president, a minority who himself would have been the product of an illegal marriage had his parents lived in a different state when they married, a situation same-sex couples face today.
“Many of you have devoted your lives to the cause of equality. So you all know that we’ve got more work to do,” Obama told the room.
Does that strike you as disingenuous? Obama was met with cheers and applause, so you decide.
“It was here, in the East Room, at our first Pride reception, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a few months after I took office, that I made a pledge, I made a commitment,” Obama continued. “I said that I would never counsel patience; it wasn’t right for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for folks to tell African Americans to be patient in terms of their freedoms. I said it might take time to get everything we wanted done. But I also expected to be judged not by the promises I made, but the promises I kept.”
But Obama hasn’t made a promise for marriage equality — and that’s the problem.
“Now, that doesn’t mean our work is done,” Obama said. “There are going to be times where you’re still frustrated with me. I know there are going to be times where you’re still frustrated at the pace of change. I understand that. I know I can count on you to let me know. This is not a shy group.
“But what I also know is that I will continue to fight alongside you. And I don’t just mean as an advocate. You are moms and dads who care about the schools that your children go to. You’re students who are trying to figure out how to pay for going to college. You’re folks who are looking for good jobs to pay the bills. You’re Americans who want this country to prosper. So those are your fights, too. And the fact is these are hard days for America. So we’ve got a lot of work to do to, not only on ending discrimination; we’ve got a lot of work to do to live up to the ideals on which we were founded, and to preserve the American Dream in our time -– for everybody, whether they’re gay or straight or lesbian or transgender.”
It may feel good to hear the president say our names, but that’s not good enough.
“But the bottom line is, I am hopeful,” Obama said. I’m hopeful because of the changes we’ve achieved just in these past two years. Think about it. It’s astonishing. Progress that just a few years ago people would have thought were impossible. And more than that, what gives me hope is the deeper shift that we’re seeing that’s a transformation not just in our laws but in the hearts and minds of people — the progress led not by Washington but by ordinary citizens.”
Yes. Exactly. And, Mr. President, we know you like to work behind the scenes, and help create momentum and the right environment, but we need you to help lead that progress. We’d like the hope of seeing that “deeper shift,” that “transformation not just in our laws but in the hearts and minds of people,” in you, too.
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