Alex Blaze

White House website de-gayed

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 01, 2009 5:06 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, hate crimes against LGBT people, White House

**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Gone is the large LGBT section, and it's been replaced by this: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one could interpret his support for federal civil unions to mean that at least part of the DOMA would have to be repealed.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, 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?

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Every time politicians start parsing and amending their words I start to worry. I wonder though if this is really "de-gaying" or if it's a calculated attempt on the Administration's part to draw focus to the issues of immediate import such as hate crimes and ENDA.

The fact that Obama did release a supportive statement just before the hate crimes vote in the House allows me to hope it's perhaps an attempt to keep the focus on the current LGBT issues facing Congress and de-emphasize the issues that will be dealt with further down the road.

As per JMG, everything's been restored.

I just went to the page. It doesn't look to me like anything was restored.

The word "repeal" is back for DADT, nothing else.

kathygnome | May 1, 2009 9:38 PM

From the inauguration to this, it goes back and forth. I suspect there's some kind of conflict in the administration between pro and anti gay groups, whether it's from prejudice or strategy. Either way, it's time for Barack to put on the big boy pants and deal with this. What is DADT repeal up to in the polls? 80%?

Just what does "changing DADT in a sensible way" constitute?

"Separate but equal" gay fighting units like the Tuskeegee Airmen? Someone may correct me on this, but I do not recall that President Truman integreted the armed forces in a "sensible way;" he had the courage to just do it.

With the lurch to the fundie right by the GOP - what has he got to lose by dumping GLBT issues? It's not as if anyone GLBT is ever going to vote against him now.

The white house is aware that if he presents a pro LGBT position on marriage equality, ENDA and hate crimes legislation that will ensure he maintains support from the LGBT community.

Are we seeing a lessening of substantive support for LGBT people? Yes.

Would Obama have acted with resolve to investigate human rights crimes committed by the Bush administration without being pressured to do so? No.

Do we need to keep after the Obama administration to be true to it's election promises. Yes.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 2, 2009 4:08 AM

These internet lists are pretty minor stuff on a par with baby kissing and the Big Smile. They're hype. What's most important is that he seems to be postponing as much of our agenda until the next election cycle. Then it’s back under the bus for us.

Whether he lists our measures for equality or not means nothing. His history does. Here it is.

Obama's pandered since day one in a very well thought-out and single-minded effort at capturing bigot votes. It was directed by an anti-SSM, anti-choice ordained pentecostal bigot named Joshua Dubois.

Obama’s pandering took the form of organizing a very large nationwide pool of anti-GLBT (by their nature) christist support groups, of removing all mention of GLBT equality from the Democrat platform from his nomination until after his inauguration. At this same time he was wooing bigots he validated their bigotry by persistently saying that bigots have friends in high places, aka ‘gawd’s in the mix’. Then he rubbed a little salt in the wounds by inviting a particularly rancid bigot, Warren to his inaugural, created a board of anti-GLBT spirit advisors, and promoted Dubois to run his faith based bribery effort to cement ties with christist pulpit pimps. Dubois is the new Karl Rove.

The web lists, given his persistent anti-GLBT history are just a footnote. Obama’s history places him in the same category as Clinton, a sleazy hustler.

It's clear that periodic mass marches, organized independently of the anti-SSM, ant-ENDA and pro-cult bigots who lead both parties are the best way to fight for our agenda.

Isa Kocher | May 2, 2009 5:58 AM

as an old queer, aging old queen, disabled US vet, i know when i have been used, and sometimes the user and abuser is polite, and sometimes not. mr obama has been more polite than some. but i knew when my face was rubbed in it at the inauguration that the kind words that made me cry, weep actually [old queens do that] on november 5 were a box of candy not meant to be stored for the future but consumed and forgotten. warren is worse than scum but Obama openly says he's died in the wool heterosexist. i got nothing against breeders but when he says we aren't good enough to get married, that you gotta be a breeder to be holy enough to get married, then i know what that nice smile means. and so does every girl who'se been smiled on a saturday night only to be left waiting for a bus on sunday alone. seperate but equal, and without ANY KY.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 2, 2009 9:30 AM

Just be happy there's no ground glass in the vaseline.

Well Bill from here I can only say one can't fool an old fool like me. I saw it in Clinton I see it in Obama. Trust the twin parties with their two faces. Never!

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 4, 2009 1:55 AM

You don't have to be old to know Clintonesque sleaze when you see it, Richard. You just have to be honest and open eyed.

Obama's hundred days are up.

Many have noted that all that hopey-changey crap is going to turn into fury and rage as people begin to realize what they're dealing with. The constant attacks on the unions by Obama and the Democrats, demanding more and more givebacks from auto workers and others, and their escalation of the war are shattering the faked up image of Democrats. They’re Republicans in drag.

The process of disillusionment with right centrist governments like Obama’s is already quite advanced in Europe, especially in France. Last week the NY Times guessed that "Rising unemployment, stagnant wages and fury at the way that governments are handling the financial crisis were expected to bring unusually large crowds onto the streets of Europe on Friday to mark May Day, the traditional workers' holiday."

It was one of the few times the Democrat leaning NY Times got it right. In France all the unions and left parties joined in a united effort and the response was enormous. The French equivalent of the AFL-CIO, the CGT, Confédération Générale du Travail, reports 1.2 million people marched in 283 demonstrations.

In England the Guardian said "When the former prime minister Dominique de Villepin warned that there was a risk of revolution in France, it was not just because he wanted to make life difficult for his arch-rival Nicolas Sarkozy. It was also because social unrest is genuinely on the rise."

You can find a world wide round up of labor, nationalist and student unrest caused by the Obama recession/depression in Monday's Daily Labor News Digest.

Does anybody remember the early years of the Clinton administration? Remember how Clinton promised to address discrimination against lesbians and gays in the military and then he severely back tracked and we wound up with DADT? Remember the other "compromises" of the Clinton administration?

Obama might be far better than we've had in years, but he's still a politician. If we don't place pressure upon him, he'll take the easier route in the name of "compromise" and "bipartisan spirit."

You don't make it to the top of the government without being willing to toss aside principle in favor of calculated pragmatism.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | May 2, 2009 9:32 AM

"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."

Alex, while it's not totally clear, your statement seems to be suggest that you think Obama's not being in favor of repealing the latter provision (Section 2) is a negative thing. I believe that most legal scholars, including those within the LGBT community, are of the opinion that Section 2 merely reflects existing constitutional case law, and that even if it were repealed, states would still not be required to recognize the marriages of other states. Better now to focus on the other part, whose repeal would definitely result in change, than pick an unnecessary and perhaps counterproductive fight over Section 2.

Good point. Here's the link to Don's post, which goes into more depth than his comment here (for those who want to read it):

Jim Toevs | May 2, 2009 9:41 AM

I can't believe all of this whining!

We just passed Hate Crimes in the House by a big margin after a strong statement of support from President Obama.

A HUGE number of out members of the LBGT Community have been appointed to high positions in the Obama Administration.

We have the best opportunity in history to achieve Full Legal GLBT Equality in Our Lifetime.

To whine is easy. To get our hands dirty in politics and work to bring about positive social change is hard work.

I invite all of my brothers and sisters to get with the program and help bring about Full Legal LBGT Equality in Our Lifetime.

Jim Toevs 406-741-2810

I'm not sure what you want people to do, Jim. Isn't informing and rallying the public is part of the dirty work of politics?

And hate crimes is kinda a hollow victory without substantial prison reform, part of which is off the table.

Tempest in a teapot. To me, it doesn't look like anything more than sensible editing to make the message more concise.

Y'all should change the name of your blog to "Hair Trigger Outrage!"

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 2, 2009 12:28 PM

The responses of Democrats to criticism of Obama fall into several categories:

I. He’s a savior and you’re crucifying him. Poor, poor Obama.

II. Give him a few years. Seven years. Then we’ll see. Maybe.

III. Let’s not push him into a corner and make him choose between us and the bigots. We know how that’ll go.

IV. Bus? I didn’t see any bus.

V. It’s just a technical glitch.

VI. We’re being tested to see if we’re worthy.

VII. I can read Obama’s mind and I know, deep in my heart, that he loves us.

VIII. This is all a Republican plot to embarrass the best little President in the whole wide world.

Real queers will say its about time gays, lesbians, bis, and trans are waking up to the new face on the old empire.

Oh Bill don't forget that these liberals will also call any of us racist if we don't support Obama. Some of them are as rabid as a junk yard dog.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 4, 2009 2:02 AM

The problem with the Obamaites hurling charges of racism, and it's happened here at Bilerico more than once, it that plays into the hands of real racists who want to identify and condemn Obama based on his ethnicity and skin color instead of his politics.

Obamaites are people who subsume thier personalities to supporting Obama, no matter what he does.