Alex Blaze

What Will Obama Talk about at the SOTU?

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 23, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Dan Savage, DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell, marriage, New York Times, repeal

A month ago I wrote about how the gay agenda was congealing after the DADT deal passed, and, obama-sotu.jpgsince clearly we haven't spent enough resources, time, and energy on marriage this past decade, the A-gays were saying that we needed to spend all our energy fighting for marriage.

That eight- or nine-month blip about LGB servicemembers has passed, so now it's time to talk about marriage again.

I also wrote:

If you've ever wondered how the "gay agenda" gets formed, this is part of it. After a major event (in this case, DADT repeal), gays with connections run to straight media, which is unlikely to ask even basic questions real LGBT people would want answered, to talk about what they want the next priority to be. It becomes the inside story, the explanation for queer behavior that only smart people following the LGBT movement know about, and even genuinely supportive people who don't see themselves as part of the LGBT population think that's what the queers want. It's important to remember that some of the most-read defenses of dropping gender identity from the ENDA in 2007 were published in straight media.

Well, here we are a month later, and the buzz today is Dan Savage's op-ed in the New York Times arguing that Obama should talk marriage during the SOTU:

Nevertheless, President Obama should address gay rights in his State of the Union speech this week, and he should tackle the biggest, most meaningful right of them all: the right to marry.

Yup, that's it. I don't know why marriage is "the biggest, most meaningful right," but that's all the explanation Times readers are allowed to have. Go read the whole thing. If someone disagreed with Savage about same-sex marriage, as I'm sure many Times readers do, they would find nothing to convince them other than three semi-ironic paragraphs at the bottom. The people who disagree on marriage aren't sputtering homophobes who salivate as quickly as they gay-bash; they're humans with brains who read and are sometimes even looking for someone to convince them that they're wrong. They wouldn't have found it here.

Either way, well-intentioned straight people just got their question answered about what the gays want. The Times readers who don't follow these issues closely will have learned nothing about the real needs of the LGBT population. While Savage rolls off a few other pieces of legislation, he doesn't even explain what they do, much less why people should support them (and half of them are about marriage). One isn't left with the impression that marriage is the "most meaningful" right; one is left with the impression that, according to Savage, it's the only right. For straight people who have only heard about marriage since it's been talked about nonstop and think that workplace discrimination has already been banned and that there's plenty of money to fight domestic HIV/AIDS and that everyone who's gay is richer than average anyway so why does economic oppression matter... well, that just got confirmed.

As for Obama, he's not going to talk about marriage at the SOTU. The man has moved to the right on almost everything since 2008; he's not going to switch sides on the marriage issue right after the House went Republican and he's trying to shore up support for 2010 while keeping health care reform from being pulled apart.

And the usual disclaimer that I generally like Savage's work and think he's a talented writer and am glad he exists, blah blah blah etc.

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Yeah, I love him to bits and think he gives great advice, but I disagree with his article. I think the marriage fight is a long-term one. I definitely think ENDA should be next. However, me being in Tennessee and he being in Washington is going to shape his opinion on what's next.

Nail meet head.

And I wonder how many GLBT people-of-color would agree that gay marriage is the most important civil right we could want?

I'm not saying that there aren't people of color who want gay marriage (I know at least three in California alone) but I think their priorities are aligned quite differently. (There have been exactly how many story lines on Mercedes in "Glee?")

Besides, it's political suicide. It's not practical. ENDA is AND it effects more people.

Thanks again, Alex. Every time, it's like discovering chocolate.

Are you saying that the #1 priority for LGBT POC has something to do with Glee plotlines?

Van van der Voort | January 24, 2011 3:54 AM

Although there was no provision for Reader Comments for Dan Savage's editorial, individually, it was part of a set of nine editorials, and there was a place for Reader Comments at the main page. Did you comment?

Speaking only for myself, since I'm not an "A" Gay, that is the only way I can be heard besides Letters to the Editor, so I write at every opportunity. Even my local newspaper almost never prints my letters but I keep on trying to be heard because that's the only access I have.

All my government representatives send me nice letters when I write to them but I never see any concrete results. When I get a letter in the newspaper, I at least know someone really read it.

Commenting on-line is a lot more of a sure thing than a Letter to the Editor and you see immediate results. So, did you "comment" on Dan Savage's piece?

Van in San Diego

Since your comment followed mine, I wasn't sure if you were talking to me personally, or just making a generally statement about the nature of commenting.

But here's the best part, Van...I'm in San Diego, too! Let's meet for coffee and discuss. We could be part of the - I don't know - Bilerico West Coast Friendship Squad!

I'm Victor and you can reach me at

P.S. We're meeting at Bamboo Lounge on University and Normal at 5:30P Tuesday to watch the SOTU. Please come join us. I'm organizing the event for the Huffington Post.

This marriage meme is driving me fucking up the wall. What about basic employment, housing, & accommodations laws?

And I wonder how many GLBT people-of-color would agree that gay marriage is the most important civil right we could want?

Count me as one of those TBLG POC peeps raising her hand in dissent

Kathy Padilla | January 24, 2011 1:07 PM

"Well shut my mouth and call me corn pone!" - bugs bunny

& random other crazy rabbits

Reverse Polarity | January 24, 2011 3:44 PM

This is a silly argument. Gay rights isn't an either/or proposition. Dan Savage isn't wrong. You aren't wrong. Different rights are more important to different people in different circumstances.

If you live in an area where there isn't much job discrimination, and you are in a long term relationship, then maybe gay marriage is more important to you right now.

If you live in a bigoted area where job discrimination is common, and you aren't in a long term relationship, then maybe EDNA is more important to you right now.

Five years from now, your circumstances might change (either city, job, or relationship status), and your priorities might be different.

We should all be fighting toward both gay marriage and EDNA, not fighting with each other over which is more important.

Kathy Padilla | January 24, 2011 5:35 PM

"Five years from now, your circumstances might change (either city, job, or relationship status), and your priorities might be different."

Perhaps that's right for gay marriage and gay rights - Alex was talking about lgbt rights & marriage.

It makes a difference when you live in Delaware, MA, Hawaii & NH. Where people knew you had to secure employment rights prior to relationship rights - just not for everyone.

Outside of that - I may never get married - I will always need to work. I hope you can forgive me in presuming that at my age - I've been around long enough to know whether I'll consider one a priority over the other in five years.

The problem in this prioritization isn't any reversing of polarity - it's the existence of a magnetic monopole.

Dana in Philly | January 24, 2011 3:57 PM

"...gays with connections run to straight media, which is unlikely to ask even basic questions real LGBT people would want answered..."

"...will have learned nothing about the real needs of the LGBT population..."

Wow, Alex. That word "real" there, twice. What're you saying? You're saying there are LGBT folks who aren't "real" LGBT folks with "real" LGBT needs? How sad.

How will we recognize these unreal LGBT folk, then? Should cloth patches be issued? Tattoos mandated?

There are only two kinds of people: those who do, and those who do not, think that there are two kinds of people.

Tattoos? Sounds like a plan to me.

I wonder how needs would get tattooed....

Molly Knappen | January 24, 2011 10:58 PM

One hits a target not by aiming below it, but slightly above.

Kathy Padilla | January 25, 2011 6:27 AM

Exactly Molly. Aiming soley for marriage isn't just beneath the target and our needs - it's beneath ourselves.

Thank you.

re: Marriage vs. discrimination in job, housing, accommodation:

Marriage > any of these three - if you're someone who wants to marry. I can find a new job, a different place to live or shop somewhere more accommodating. I cannot easily replace my husband.

Which is not to say that I agree with the timing of the marriage battles; I'd rather we'd taken care of the smaller stuff - the things that do affect all of us - first. My state still has no protection for LGBTs, period. It bans our marriages and even civil unions, too.

But if I had to pick one and only one from the wish list, it would be marriage. The scope of what it covers is far bigger than piecemeal efforts at ending job or housing discrimination.

All that said, it's a mistake to assume that we all have the same priorities. And that is where I have a beef with the "we already got ours" crowd when it comes to ENDA, etc. You forgot about those of us struggling outside the big urban areas and left us to rot as you forged ahead to pursue marriage.

Make no mistake - I support marriage equality, even if I am unhappy with the timing and strategies sometimes employed. For me it is the BIG priority. But I respect that others may differ according to their own needs and desires.

Victor J Kinzer | January 25, 2011 3:17 PM

I'm going to have to disagree with you here Alex. Marriage IS the most important right, because it's not one right. It's a barrage of rights a mile long. Let's instead hold ENDA up to a series of rights associated with marriage and see which ones people find more compelling.

Employment Non Discrimnation vs. the right to visit your dying spouse in the hospital, even if that hospital DOESN'T accept federal dollars.

ENDA vs. the right to not have to pay tax on all the money in your joint checking account right after your partner dies because technically you aren't reckognized as a couple.

ENDA vs. the right to not have to loose an extra hundred dollars a month out of your paycheck for covering your spouse on your health insurance because you're not married so it's taxable income (which by the way affects lower income individuals a lot more, as double income with benefits households don't have to tackle this one, hmmm seems to cover one of the other rights you mentioned in your article)

ENDA vs. the right to provide your lover from another country the right to come and live with you, and share a life together despite your bi-national origin.

ENDA vs. the right to actually receive your partner's social security after they die when they were the larger breadwinner in your family, meaning you had not saved nearly as much money as they had during your life, oh and that tax thing earlier also applied to their retirement savings.

Shall I go on? Really, shall I? How about the fact that national marriage equality would strike a blow at the structural wording of the majority of bans on gay adoption? Or the fact that gay marriage would simplify our entire tax process, and result in lower income G/L couples paying less in taxes, while providing higher taxes for higher income G/L couples, oh wait. I'm sorry that goes back to your whole class thing. I don't mean to point out how contradictory your argument is, but I just keep tripping over the OBVIOUS proof of that fact.

Now how about everything I mentioned above, and the things I couldn't think of off the top of my head because they are more obscure vs. ENDA. Which is more important?

ENDA is important, very important, it is however one issue. Pretending that marriage is one issue and can be held up one for one with Marriage as A singular right is misleading, and manipulative, and you should knock it off.

Sorry Victor, still ENDA. If you are being discriminated out of a job and housing I don't see how you could sponsor your partner to come to the US or pay extra health insurance for them. While what you say it's true (that the marriage issue is not merely about marriage) there's loads of other GLBT people who want to be respected and have equal rights without having to get married for it. Much as I appreciate what Dan Savage does, I think Alex is totally right.