Tom Brown

Post-march question: Just a one-night stand? Hope not

Filed By Tom Brown | October 13, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Equality March, LGBT Rights, Maine, NEM, Washington State

OK, we've had our march and it's the morning after. Has anything changed?

Lots of rip-roarin' speeches that I followed on C-Span -- I especially liked Troy Perry's fiery invocation -- but I haven't spotted any new crumb that the Obama administration has tossed out to the LGBT community since Friday.

I read the transcript of Obama's speech to the HRC dinner Saturday night. As feared, it was great rhetoric but lacking specifics. I was hoping for more on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell issue -- Obama had a perfect opportunity to announce an executive order, what with the army brass blitzing the talk shows to drum up the pressure for more troops in Afghanistan. If Obama didn't want to appear to be thumbing his nose at the DADT law, he could have confined a stop-loss order to the Afghanistan operation. Or he could have worded it to slow down, but not entirely halt, the discharges. After all, Bill Clinton himself, who signed the act, said recently the military basically did a double cross: that the original intent of the DADT compromise was that the services would use discharges sparingly, and soldiers would be free to have an openly gay life off-base and not fear a witch hunt.

Instead, we're left with a putrid status quo that ruins the careers of hundreds of service people every year. Who knows how much longer it will take congressional committees to study the DADT issue to death? We are already getting into the 2010 House campaign, so don't expect any conscientious action from that body.

Another missed opportunity: Obama harped throughout his campaign about the injustice of gay partners being kept away from the deathbeds of their loved ones. We've just had a federal court decision in Miami that perpetuates the abuse; the situation cries out for a remedy. Right now, we have, what, four or five different healthcare reform bills floating around Congress? How hard would it be to insert a provision saying "DOMA notwithstanding, gay partners with medical power of attorney forms shall be respected as next-of-kin by hospitals."

Yet Obama has let that possibility pass.

Still another missed opportunity: Obama has sent up trial balloons about reforming Social Security. We know that won't happen soon, probably not until his second term (if he makes it that far.) But he could have told the HRC dinner that one of his goals for SS overhaul will be to give gay couples the same entitlements that hetero couples receive automatically. This could add significant income to the households of many LGBT retiree couples, plus enhance the financial security of future retirees. Instead, gay couples will continue paying into the system but get only the benefits provided to single people, with not a penny more paid after one of the partners dies.

The numbers game: I poked around the mainstream media and couldn't find anyone willing to give a figure for the Washington turnout. NY Times said "thousands" and the AP upped it to "tens of thousands." Very few aerial photos, but one from AP showed a crowd that was maybe at most a quarter-way down the Natl Mall's reflecting pool. Did anyone who was on hand get a clearer picture or impression of the crowd size? I hope Phil Reese's estimate range of 100-250K is at least ballpark accurate, but how many big media outlets used figures that large.

Barney Frank was quoted by the Times or the AP as saying the only pressure that would result from the Washington march would be "on the grass." Typical Frank frankness, but for now I have to agree with Barney. I hope the March leaders, with all their organizing workshops and such, came up with some concrete "next steps" leading up to the 2010 elections.

Maine and Washington State are the immediate battlegrounds, just around the corner. How much money did the March raise for those two campaigns, and how many charter buses will be going to Portland and Seattle next weekend? Looking beyond this November, how many gay or gay-friendly House candidates are we recruiting for key swing districts where the LGBT movement might be able to knock out Republicans or Blue Dogs who vote against equality?

Or is this to be another Post-Prop 8 firecracker -- one big weekend rally, followed by one or two feeble follow-ups in street action, and then everyone heads back to the disco.

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