**Updated after the jump**
Remember how the civil rights agenda page of the White House website had a huge section on LGBT equality? Well, his Civil Rights Agenda page has been changed.
Gone is the large LGBT section, and it's been replaced by this:
President Obama also continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. He supports full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. He supports changing Don't Ask Don't Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security, and also believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.[...]
He will seek to strengthen federal hate crime legislation and will work to ensure that federal law enforcement agencies do not resort to racial profiling.
More on the changes after the jump.
You can view the side-by-side comparison here.
Here are the changes:
- DOMA: It's been scrubbed off the site, although one could interpret his support for federal civil unions to mean that at least part of the DOMA would have to be repealed.
- DADT: Gone is
his call for "repeal," his call to prohibit discrimination in the military on the basis of sexual orientation, and any reason why DADT repeal should happen. Instead he's calling for " changing repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in a sensible way."
- Hate crimes legislation: Gone is anything LGBT specific or any reason why he supports hate crimes legislation. It's been replaces with "He will seek to strengthen federal hate crime legislation."
- FMA: He's still opposed.
- Employment discrimination: He still supports the ENDA, but he's lost some of the pretty words about why.
- Adoption: The same.
- HIV/AIDS: Several large paragraphs were removed. Maybe it's been moved to another part of his agenda, but it isn't in "health care," "women," or "disability." I'm still looking.
I'll be updating this.
Thanks to reader isa for spotting this and emailing it in.
Update: From the Washington Blade:
The official White House web site was recently updated and the much-lauded section on civil rights and LGBT rights severely edited.
A White House spokesperson told the Blade today that the site edits do not reflect any policy changes.
"As with most web sites, periodic changes are made to whitehouse.gov, and recently we overhauled the issues section to concisely reflect the president's broad agenda and we'll continue to update those pages, but the president's commitment to LGBT issues hasn¹t changed at all," the spokesperson said. "So ... anyone who's saying that it's a change in position is wrong."
That's reassuring and I'm all for brevity. But one change to the site has me concerned. The language related to repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" represents a departure from the earlier iteration of the site.[...]
The site now states: "He supports changing Don't Ask Don't Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security."
"Changing" the policy and "repealing" it are not necessarily the same thing. I hope this is just semantics and doesn't represent a new reluctance to fulfill the promise of a full repeal.
Update 2: Via Lucrece in the comments, the White House website has restored the word "repeal" to its sentence on DADT. It's obvious that they understood as well as anyone that "change" means nothing and "repeal" means something.
But still gone is the call to "prohibit" discrimination in the military. If DADT is repealed, that doesn't mean everything's going to be honky-dory for LGBT troops; in fact, repealing DADT and leaving all other military policy in place would send the situation for LGBT troops right back to the straight-up ban that was in place pre-Clinton.
Also, there are still all the other areas which have been dropped, most notably HIV/AIDS and DOMA. Here's what he previously promised on domestic HIV/AIDS policy:
Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.
It hasn't been moved to another part of his agenda (like Health Care); it's simply gone. The only mention of HIV in his agenda is in the "Science" section:
Today, we face a new set of challenges, including energy security, HIV/AIDS, and climate change. Yet, the United States is losing its scientific dominance.
So the White House removed the statistics about domestic HIV/AIDS and his call for a "comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies." This includes the following policies:
- Comprehensive sex education: Not even on the "Education" page, this is gone. The REAL Act, which would shift funding from abstinence-only over to comprehensive sex ed, isn't on his agenda.
- Sex education and condoms in prison: Gone, not even in "Criminal Justice Reform."
- Lifting the federal ban on needle exchange: The White House webpage used to say: "The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users." That's gone.
- Condom distribution: Gone.
- Funding to search for microbicides for women: Gone, not in the "Women" section.
While the small change back in DADT is encouraging, it was by far one of the least controversial of his original promises. His list of policies to deal with HIV/AIDS would have, to say the least, caused great concern among the Religious Right, the suburban set, and the political establishment who think they know what's politically feasible and what's not. The policies were ones that would work, not ones that are popular or easy, but that's all the more reason for the president to keep his support for those policies public. It helps shift the discussion when the popular president of the US supports a policy.
DOMA repeal has also been completely removed from the webpage, as mentioned above. His position during the campaign was for full repeal. While his call for full civil unions and federal rights and benefits for same-sex couples require that he repeal Section 3. Basically, by removing DOMA repeal from his site he's taking the position Hillary Clinton took during the HRC/Logo debate almost two years ago, which he went on to use as one of the chief differences between his position on LGBT issues and Clinton's. It's also the change GLAD is asking for in their legal challenge to DOMA.
As I wrote back after the HRC/Logo debate, Section 1 of the DOMA states the name and Section 2 says that other states can't be required to recognize the "relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage" from another state. Section 3 is the part that defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the federal government and "spouse" as a married person of the opposite sex.
In other words, Obama is implicitly willing to let the federal government recognize marriages and civil unions and domestic partnerships from Massachusetts and California and Vermont, but he's not in favor of repealing language that says that Texas and Florida don't have to. And one has to read between the lines to get that far.
All three of these areas are rather large changes, but taking his HIV/AIDS policy off the table is monumental. Are we going to deal with domestic HIV? Or are we going to keep on telling teens and prisoners and everyone else just to keep their rockets in their pockets and hope the disease goes away?