Obama Needs to End Silence on Biggest Civil Rights Move of Our Time

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obama and rick warren.jpgBarack Obama has appointed a hyperactive director of faith-based initiatives, Josh DuBois, and sees little problem continuing the blurring of church and state that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton initiated in their terms. I remain very uncomfortable with evangelicals and other preachers — many of whom have narrow and bigoted views of America’s 21st century civil rights challenges.
That said, I realize that faith-based initiatives are here and part of the scene. I get it.
But there needs to be equal time for some of the victims of this cozy relationship between the oval office and anti-gay religious adherents.
Same sex marriages are now a real part of the scene too — something allowed in the enormous state of California for a short time until the day that Barack Obama himself was elected nationally and won the California vote.
Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and Iowa are the five leading states that endorse and provide for same sex marriages. New York and Washington DC (at least for 30 days) recognize these marriages. And New Hampshire is likely to be the sixth state to provide for same sex marriages.
Eventually, California will be back in the same sex marriage column.
This is happening as the weeks unfold — and President Barack Obama has said NOTHING.
Yesterday, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs had an exchange with ABC’s Jake Tapper:

“No, I think the president’s position on same-sex marriage is — has been talked about and discussed,” Gibbs curtly replied.
“He opposes same-sex marriage?” Tapper asked.
“He supports civil unions,” Gibbs said, not really answering the question.

Obama is basically ducking the issue for the time being — voting the proverbial “present” without indicating support or opposition as he basks in Oval Office power — present, there, watching — but doing nothing.
For him, it’s a states rights issue — not a civil rights issue at the federal level.
I can’t quite believe that our first African-American President is sitting this one out — but I do get the politics of it, to a point. What I don’t get is his withdrawal from other key gay community issues.
What is directly in Obama’s purview — as not only a federal issue but one directly linked to the office he holds — is the “don’t ask, don’t tell” order regarding discrimination against gays in the US military. Obama promised during his campaign to end this hypocrisy that leads to the expulsion of a full brigade a year from the armed services. Those thrown out are qualified men and women who are replaced in part by those needing criminal file “moral waivers.”
In fact, Aaron Belkin points out that Obama is about to preside as Commander-in-Chief over his national security bureacracy’s first firing of a gay Arab linguist.
Obama’s position of total silence on this fast and historic expansion of gay marriage rights could be offset if he finally asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to conduct a new impact study of what gays in the military (and they are in the military if anyone cared to look — in very, very large numbers) would do to “morale.”
General Colin Powell has said that it is time to review this issue — and is keeping his powder dry until such a review by the Joint Chiefs is done. Former Senator Sam Nunn — who fired two of his own personal national security policy staff in the 1990s for being gay — has also said that “times have changed” and that it is time to review the policy.
And yet. . .what did President Obama do?
As John Aravosis recently shared, Obama’s transparent presidency significantly weakend the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell commitment and policy position from the White House website.
This is unacceptable. I don’t like but do understand the internal debate inside the White House on the issue of “civil union” vs. “marriages”. Obama’s view is now behind the times as many states leap frog forward into the 21st century in a way that Obama is not doing.
But there is no excuse at all — none — for allowing the bigotry and harassment of gays and lesbians in the armed forces to stand. Gays populate the armed services now.
Obama’s silence is disturbing and wrong. While he may not be able for political reasons to move on marriages, to do nothing on the military front — which is in his portfolio — deserves serious criticism.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

64 comments on “Obama Needs to End Silence on Biggest Civil Rights Move of Our Time

  1. jill starr says:

    Middle Ground on Gay Marriage
    Posted 3/2/2009 12:11 PM EST
    In seemingly unending arguments for or against gay marriage in America, we hear continual reverberations of identical redundant and outdated arguments emanating from mouths of our politicians merely towing their party lines; creative thinking doesn’t seem to be involved. A student of United States Constitutional Law, I strongly believe their rhetoric is not what America’s founding fathers’ envisaged.
    Instead of old redundant Democratic or Republican justifications for or against legalizing gay marriage in America, I’d like to hear some brave political soul running for public office say something like this for once; it is legally correct.
    1) Although I personally don’t believe in gay marriage owing to my personal and/or religious convictions, I am a publically elected official. And as such, I owe it to my constituents to protect their legal political and civic entitlements/rights all American citizens share. This includes both their civil/political and social/economic rights as stated in the full faith and credit clause of US law.
    2) Homosexuals are entitled to gay marriage although I personally disagree with the idea because denying them their right thereto is not comparable to denying any one sector of American society say the right to work based on their personal private sexual preferences. If heterosexuals are entitled to unemployment, so are gays. To deny any particular political/civic right to any American citizen based on sexual preference, religion, race and/or creed is unconstitutional; plain and simple.
    When Republicans gain the moral courage and political willpower to objectively produce such a speech, they’ll be many times more powerful a political party in America capable of gaining support from the homosexual citizen base in America.
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  2. Jeannette says:

    [It’s still legal – and always God-honoring – to air messages like the following. (See Ezekiel 3:18-19.) In light of government backing of raunchy behavior (such offenders were even executed in early America!), maybe the separation we really need is the “separation of raunch and state”!]
    In Luke 17 in the New Testament, Jesus said that one of the big “signs” that will happen shortly before His return to earth as Judge will be a repeat of the “days of Lot” (see Genesis 19 for details). So gays are actually helping to fulfill this same worldwide “sign” (and making the Bible even more believable!) and thus hurrying up the return of the Judge! They are accomplishing what many preachers haven’t accomplished! Gays couldn’t have accomplished this by just coming out of closets into bedrooms. Instead, they invented new architecture – you know, closets opening on to Main Streets where little kids would be able to watch naked men having sex with each other at festivals in places like San Francisco (where their underground saint – San Andreas – may soon get a big jolt out of what’s going on over his head!). Thanks, gays, for figuring out how to bring back our resurrected Saviour even quicker!

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  3. William Gaylor says:

    This man has crossed the line we need to get him out of office along with the other cronies.

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  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I think if Al-Qaeda sets off a nuclear bomb, it will kill without discrimination”
    Oh yes, the ‘ol “BOO!” strategy, we know it well.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Out with the old, in with the old. Obama has a plan, and its the old plan.
    You know something we don’t?
    Besides, if we have a city nuked by “terrorists”, Israel’s intent would be to blame Iran, not Pakistan. Or perhaps they can hit the “daily double”, and claim it was Iranian terrorists using a Pakistani nuke. Almost better than a “trifecta”, eh?

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  5. silverslipper says:

    Just wanted to give all the “progressive realists” an encouraging thought – I think President Obama has his plan, and I think you will get your wish soon enough. I believe President Obama’s plan is 1.) Level the economic playing field (he seems content with Wall Street declining, he’s ready to increase the taxes on the rich and increase funding to the poor). Once this new budget gets passed, much of those changes will be put into motion. 2. Legalize all Hispanic immigrants, and who knows, maybe put them on a fast track to citizenship. This will greatly increase the Democratic base and make his next four years a sure thing. (Again, those Hispanics will probably not be able to vote by 2012, but they will be a good source of contributions to his campaign.) 3.) At least establish civil unions, make changes in military to allow gays to serve openly, etc…. I think you have to remember that President Obama’s first priority is to ensure that he wins his next term. Even if President Obama is weak as some have mentioned, you do have Pelosi in Congress, and she’ll probably get it pushed through. In other words, I think you guys just need to be patient. Of course, you do need to hope he gets the changes for gays done before 2013-2014, because by then Americans are going to be furious with him and the Democratic congress, because by then we’ll all have tax increases (rich and poor) because there’s no way our economy can handle the trillions of dollars of debt that President Obama is putting us in.
    Also, those concerned about other countries’ treatment of gays need to remember what Hilliary Clinton said when visiting China. I can only paraphrase, but it was something like, ‘We’re concerned about human rights, but our primary focus here in China is to deal with our economic difficulties.’ In other words, ‘We need China’s money, so we’re not going to push them to treat their citizens more humanely’. I don’t see that improving, because President Obama’s economic policies are going to keep us dependent on other countries for quite a long time.
    I’m kind of surprised Mr. Clemmons, that you haven’t posted more about Pakistan. I mean if those nukes go mobile and get in the wrong hands, we are in major trouble. Do you know any more about that since your trip? I think if Al-Qaeda sets off a nuclear bomb, it will kill without discrimination.

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  6. David says:

    Obama essentially declared gay marriage as a wedge issue a dead issue in his joke about his relationship with David Axelrod. He is deliberate, methodical, and persistent. Now if he will just get everything right relative to this fundamental civil rights issue. Society has no right to discriminate against gays in any way, shape, or form. Individuals can believe whatever they choose to believe, but society collectively has no such right. If we did, there would be no First Ten Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

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  7. questions says:

    You can always “do” something — boycott, speak out, write papers and letters, bitch and moan and complain, tell all your friends…. To engage and ignore is a choice, and WigWag has merely pointed out that this particular choice is in conflict with other choices. I don’t think “hypocrisy” is the best term to use. I tend to think that “hypocrisy” is best saved for teens who need to accuse adults of betraying principles before they start to see just how complicated the world is and how principles can get in the way of doing good.
    (Think about the principle of, say, self-reliance. It’s sometimes good, and sometimes horrible, in its effects. Any principle can be a problem when not connected to a good will. (Kant covers this one,))
    So while WigWag is right to note the tension in Steve’s views, WW’s use of “hypocrisy” is not quite right.
    “Care” stands in for “work to alter” — just like you might work to alter Joe Arpaio’s rule in Maricopa County, Arizona, even though he’s not your sheriff. And maybe all of us across the country have a moral duty to do something about this guy, even if we get a good deal on convention space in Maricopa County, or like to vacation there or whatever.
    In the end, there may just be a fundamental problem with putting the word “progressive” in front of “realism.”

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  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Huh?” What do you mean, “huh?”?
    How the hell do you get to “Should he only care about the US?” from what I said? Caring is one thing, being able to actually do something is another.

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  9. questions says:

    Huh?

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  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Steve lives in the US, certainly. But where do his responsibilities as a moral agent lie? Should he only care about the US?”
    You must exist totally on straw. Is there no end to the mental gymnastics you are willing to engage in?

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  11. WigWag says:

    By the way, it’s not just Muslim nations (and the United States) that have a long way to go on the issue of gay rights. Jacob Zuma was inaugurated as South Africa’s new President today. Here’s some of what he has had to say about gay people:
    “When I was growing up an ungqingili (a derogatory term for gay person) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out.”
    “Same-sex marriages are a disgrace to the nation and to God.”
    And then there’s the pies de resistance:
    “Comrades, stop wasting your time with predatory minorities like gays, academics, editors and feminists. They have no real constituency but very powerful networks. I am sure Gays will tell you how they gallantly fought to release Mandela. It is the nature of these predatory minorities to latch on to the selfless struggles of the ordinary majority; the same applies to the press about press freedom. Press freedom was handed to them by the masses who they despise today. That’s the nature of this powerful network…If you don’t like gays that’s it, there are serious rumours about some of ANC leaders sexual leanings, especially those in business.”
    Archbishop Desmond Tutu opposed Zuma’s electoral bid but Nelson Mandela supported it.

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  12. questions says:

    questions writes:
    “It’s not an easy distinction to make between what is “my” country and what is “someone else’s”. Alabama isn’t “my state”. POA’s views aren’t “my” views. The south isn’t “my” region. Saudi Arabia isn’t “my” country. It’s harder than one would wish.”
    POA responds:
    “Actually, its not only easy, its even quite simple. Steve lives in the United States. Thats his country. He doesn’t live in Saudi Arabia. Thats not his country.
    Now, uh, how complex was that?
    questions replies:
    Steve lives in the US, certainly. But where do his responsibilities as a moral agent lie? Should he only care about the US? Only about the small part of the US he inhabits? (One house on one block in DC?) Should he care about his region? What boundaries should he accept for responsibility? WigWag suggests a very broad responsibility that includes Saudi treatment of gays. You actually have a broad notion of responsibility at least over the ME/I-P situation. You feel a tremendous responsibility to the Palestinians, and yet they aren’t “your” part of the world.
    Or think about it this way, you have a deeply felt affinity for Tristan Anderson. He wasn’t in “his” country, or with “his” people, and yet he took a deep deep sense of responsibility and identification with him, and in the end made a huge sacrifice, on behalf of what wasn’t properly “his”. It’s not so easy to say what “mine” is. But then, I see complications everywhere. We all know that. On this reading, then, where is Steve’s responsibility?
    The issue ends up being a kind of free-for-all– if it’s a “sexy” cause, take it up, and if not, ignore it. We all have moments of inconsistency on this; you are forgiving of your own, and not of that of others.
    Realism of the progressive sort needs to deal with this issue. A progressive realist accepts horrors in one part of the world in order to create alliances and settle cost/benefit calculations, but then is upset when that same kind of cost/benefit calculation suggests that something the PROGRESSIVE wants doesn’t happen. This is the essence of WigWag’s point, and it should be explained.
    More concretely, Obama is doing precisely the same cost/benefit stuff vis-a-vis gay marriage that Steve does vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia. Steve is praised on Saudi Arabia and Obama is castigated on the gay marriage issue. It’s worth thinking through.
    I tend to think that Obama is right to go slowly on gay marriage so that the political process can be settled and we don’t get the equivalent of the reaction to abortion rights (what a mess that has been — see Keyes at Notre Dame yesterday). And remember, the whole Bush admin. can be traced to the abortion issue. Better to get it right slowly than to usher in Bush III.

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  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Homophobia is a mental disorder, period, and all of its manifestations, I don’t care in what sectarian nonsense they are wrapped, are abominations”
    Well, I happen to believe that someone’s religious conviction can found an aversion to gay marraige in something other than homophobia or bigotry.
    But our government has no right to that same aversion, as it matters not whether its founded in bigotry or religion, for neither option adheres to what we purport ourselves to be.

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  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “It’s not an easy distinction to make between what is “my” country and what is “someone else’s””
    Actually, its not only easy, its even quite simple. Steve lives in the United States. Thats his country. He doesn’t live in Saudi Arabia. Thats not his country.
    Now, uh, how complex was that?
    How much influence do you think Steve, and the American gay community, could have swaying Saudi society into a more tolerant treatment of gays?
    Yet here, in Steve’s homeland, he and the gay community CAN influence policy, can’t they?
    So, using your argument, we must consider Steve a “hypocrite” because he is not tilting at windmills in Saudi Arabia, instead of influencing policies, through activism, here at home.

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  15. David says:

    Homophobia is a mental disorder, period, and all of its manifestations, I don’t care in what sectarian nonsense they are wrapped, are abominations.

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  16. erichwwk says:

    I commend Steve for his courage to make a stand. Not only do I stand with him, if Obama fails to do so, and caves in and allows the military, banks, and corporations, to dictate to the him and the American people, and impose their minority view- tyranny in essence, his Presidency is OVER, as far as I am concerned.
    Even Pres.Karsai has now come out and said BLUNTLY and CLEARLY, aerial bombing of Afghanistan is not acceptable.
    I do not see these two events as being unrelated.
    I can’t thank Steve enough for what he is doing.
    We don’t need another “leader” unwilling to enact the will of the people. If Obama wakes up and develops a spine, we will support him. Otherwise, like LBJ, good riddance.

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  17. bangzoom14 says:

    Steve, your thoughts on this topic were very well said. Obama mentioned we can do multiple tasks at the same time and I bet deep down inside he supports gay marriage. So.. Obama.. ditch the DOMA and get on the gay marriage band wagon. Stop dragging your feet and don’t listen to the right wing religious nuts at all as they are so caught up in religion/superstition (there is no difference) that they remain pretty much subtracted from the reality of today’s life.

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  18. Bob r says:

    @pissedoff…
    “I think Obama has shown us all we need to see in order to make the judgement that he is just one more posturing fraud hawking bullshit to the people.”
    I’m afraid I’m starting to agree. He’s another self-aggrandizing political hyena, willing to do anything to ensure his own political future. Leadership tempered by political reality is one thing, but claiming to be a reformer and failing on big issues (appointing wall street insiders Tim Geithner and Larry Summers to ‘fix’ (pick your meaning) the economy, no punishment for Bush era criminals, and of course gay marriage equality, among others you mention and others still) is nothing like true leadership, which demands bravery and conviction and the willingness to see the polls drop a little in the short term. All in all, BO stinks.

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  19. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks to everyone for an interesting and principled discussion. Some like WigWag, Zathras, and Dan Kervick disagree with my take on the issue, or if not disagree, at least are uncomfortable with my support of US relations with nations like China and Saudi Arabia while also pushing strongly for Obama to change course on gay rights issues in the United States.
    This is a great discussion — useful to me — though I am quite comfortable with continuing to press on with my views as I stated them.
    But wanted to thank all of you as well for a quite mature discussion and debate.
    best, steve

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  20. Charles says:

    “Not sure what the distinction is between ‘bigotry’ and ‘sincere religious conviction’.”
    First, let’s distinguish disapproval and what I’ll call “general disqualification” – preemptive exclusion of members of a group from some role (soldier, employee, teacher, neighbor, etc) independently of specific characteristics arguably relevant to that role. Often, the basis of general disqualification is attribution of possibly disqualifying characteristics that properly should be associated with individuals to a group. Eg, “blacks are lazy”, “women are passive”, “men are aggressive”, etc.
    In the cases of race and gender, I think the meaning of “bigotry” is relatively clear: general disqualification based solely on membership in those groups.
    The problem in the case of religion and homosexuality is that the group-defining characteristic is also the religion-offending characteristic. (For simplicity, I’m assuming equivalence between homosexuality and homosexual activity). Hence, one whose sincere religious conviction is that homosexual activity is sinful must consider that being a homosexual is a sin. Now, we all have the right to disapprove of others’ “sins” as we perceive them, but it becomes problematic when one takes the next step and considers that a particular sin justifies a general disqualification of the sinner.
    My understanding is that some religions consider everyone to be a sinner, in which case general disqualification of a person for a particular sin seems to be selective. And this, in turn, suggests attribution to that particular sin – and hence to that particular group of sinners – of disqualifying characteristics that properly should be associated with individuals.
    To the extent that this description of the situation is reasonably accurate, it suggests to me that the sought distinction lies in what action is considered appropriate as a consequence of one’s religious conviction and that general disqualification (though not necessarily disapproval) of homosexuals qualifies as bigotry.

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  21. Dan Kervick says:

    Dirk,
    I agree these are serious issues. I just wonder what’s more serious: a gay man in Saudi Arabia who has been arrested, imprisoned and lashed for sodomy; a gay woman in Mexico City who can’t put food on her table; a gay man in sub-Saharan Africa dying of Aids; or a gay couple in Florida who can’t get a marriage license?

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  22. Bob R says:

    @Susan Zenier – what are you talking about? Marriage is legally a civil act. You know, going down to city hall for a MARRIAGE license, etc? The religious ceremony is frosting on the cake and is purely OPTIONAL. Get your facts straight.

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  23. dirk says:

    Dan Kervick —
    Your tongue-in-cheek comment (last sentence) is well taken. However, it’s not the civil union vs marriage debate (nasty as it is), per se, but that it manifests the continued striving of religion and its adherents to control our lives.
    Big business, government and religion — all 3 have positive and negative effects on our lives. Growing up in the household of a fundamentalist christian, I am more reactive to the latter, especially in terms of its outright bigotry, magical thinking, and (most unacceptable) the apparent self-assuming entitlement its adherents claim in trying to control other people’s lives because they know better (claim of a truth monopoly). I see the dobsons, robertsons, the pope, the mormon prophet, et al, as being much more dangerous than the heads of the other two entities, because of their constant reminders that they hold the higher moral ground because god talks to them.

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  24. questions says:

    Zathras,
    Some actual, recognizable civil rights issues are at stake — inheritance (it’s not just for the rich), testifying in court against a “spouse”, child custody, spousal insurance benefits (again, not just for the rich), picking up your kid after school without special permission (maybe not the biggest thing, but remember, water fountains aren’t the “biggest thing” either, but are just one more sign of second-class status).
    I think it’s worth broadening the notion of “marriage” to include mutually supporting couples who then have a range of status and economic benefits. Status matters and was a central concern in the Civil Rights movement.
    As for the other issues you point out, those are issues, too. There are many injustices, but the sheer number of them doesn’t preclude the gay marriage issue from being on the list.
    It’s worth pointing out, by the way, that Rawls has an argument about timing protest. He wrote A Theory of Justice at the end of the 60s or early 70s and was well aware of both the sheer number of civil rights abuses and the protests against them. He suggests that we time our protests so that not everyone is protesting at the same time. It’s a social contractarian issue in a way. Do not so overwhelm the system that the system collapses and we fall back into the state of nature. Thus, a Rawlsian might counsel a little patience, though maybe not quite in Zathras’s way.

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  25. Dan Kervick says:

    Don Bacon,
    I have not now, nor have I ever supported “American exceptionalism”.
    Steve isn’t “America”. He’s a private individual. He can speak out or not speak out on any issue he cares about, anywhere in the world. He is under no obligation to divide his moral concerns up into “internal” and “external” affairs, in the way states do.
    And when he does speak out, he is not required to voice his moral opinions as an expression of either American values or the American way of life, or claim that American mores are in any way superior to the ways of life he is criticizing. Frankly, I’d live to hear Steve and others in Washington speak out more forcefully *against* the American way of life, which is currently grounded in a decadent culture of outrageous violence and spectacles of violence, exploitation, corporate rule, gross inequality, militarism, alienation, Social Darwinism, mindless addictions to the shallowest of pleasures, institutionalized stupidity, vulgarization of sentiment, and a bleak, anti-social atomization of human life and human dignity.
    Much of the world’s population now lives in degrading, filthy, desperate and impoverished mega-slums, shut off from meaningful participation in the global economy lorded over by people like the filthy rich Gulf oil barons Steve shuttles among. The latter are the most powerful, the most well-heeled and the most privileged individuals in the world; they are the men who rule the commanding heights of a ruthlessly exploitative global economic order, and occupy the movable Versailles palace of the early 21st century global order.
    But you know, we wouldn’t want to “meddle” with the decisions of these debauched and titanically loaded aristocrats, who chop people’s hands off for stealing the figs that they need to fete visiting American dignitaries. Nor would we want to “meddle” in the lives of the slum-dwellers who sell flowers, coca or blow jobs to put some shitty food on their kids’ shitty tables.
    We should be much more concerned with middle class gay Americans, who may not be able to be married in some states, but will have to settle for a civil union as they commute to work every day in their two oil-driven cars.

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  26. Zathras says:

    Dan Kervick’s criticism above is similar to the one I’ve made of Steve Clemons with respect to Cuba policy.
    Clemons’s realism, sincere though I believe it to be, sometimes seems to go right out the window when it comes to issues personally important to him or that he’s gotten excited about for some other reason. On such issues, action — bold action, even dramatic action — must be taken now, by the President himself, on pain of serious political consequences. The “serious political consequences” part is a bluff, and not a very good one given Clemons’s shaky instincts when it comes to domestic electoral politics. But that’s a secondary point, the main one being that a new administration cannot, in fact, do everything it might want to at once. That’s true even when its poll numbers are good, and even when the party out of power seems confused and demoralized. It’s even true when some of the things it might like to do relate back to campaign promises by the guy who won the election.
    I’ve been impressed, almost since the day of President Obama’s election, by the lack of regard shown for the number and scope of issues both vital and urgent that he and his team are responsible for — not so much by the American public in general, but by some of Obama’s own supporters. Of course every organized interest in Washington sees its own agenda as involving matters of transcendant principle, central to our very identity as Americans. They’d like to think their agenda and the new President’s agenda are identical. In fact, in this case the interest group’s agenda and the President’s are (as far as I can tell) not all that different. The problem is that the new administration is a little busy right now. Because Obama doesn’t want to wade into the gay agenda now doesn’t mean he never will, but there are more urgent, and dare I say more important matters of national policy to attend to first.
    There is something else, that I alluded to briefly upthread and have hesitated to expand on because I’m pretty confident that neither Steve Clemons nor the bulk of his readership have this on their collective radar screen at all. Cards on the table: I think the definition of marriage is fine the way it is. If I were President, I’d look at anyone suggesting I try to set national policy on this subject as if he were a talking fish. I also think that the way gay marriage has been promoted in most of the states where it is now recognized amounts to judicial legislation of the worst sort, a contemptuous diversion around democracy through misuse of the power of the courts to interpret law.
    Even if I thought none of those things, though, I’m not sure I could forego astonishment at the belief of so many people that gay issues represent America’s premier civil rights challenge. Right to counsel if you can’t afford a lawyer; right to decent treatment if you are found guilty of a crime calling for imprisonment; right (or at least a chance) to get an education adequate to allow survival in modern society — America is doing pretty poorly at upholding all of these, every one of them subjects Martin Luther King spoke and wrote about repeatedly and at length. King’s record of advocacy where gay marriage is concerned is a little thin; he may have been distracted by the whole religion thing, or maybe he was just a bigot. At any rate, I doubt that if he were to show up for another speech at the Lincoln Memorial today his main topic would be gay rights.
    This isn’t really about King, though. It’s about us. As an intellectual matter, one can make a perfectly coherent argument that standing up for one massively disadvantaged group — even if “standing up” in this context only means asking they have the same minimum rights most Americans take for granted — is fully consistent with standing up for a much less disadvantaged group. In practice, that’s not how it works. Much smaller disadvantages experienced by people we think we know are easier to deal with. Indigent counsel costs money taxpayers are unwilling to spend and requires lawyers who would prefer more lucrative practice; people sent to prison deserve to be punished and more importantly are out of sight; children in Anacostia are out of sight and out of mind even to people who live a few miles away, in the white part of Washington. These are all hard subjects — not thinking, let alone trying to do anything about them is the path of least resistance.
    Look at this thread. This is the first post that has even mentioned civil rights issues that King would have recognized. Before this, the strongest objection to Steve Clemons’s argument came from a poster accusing him of hypocrisy because he doesn’t write about how people are treated in Saudi Arabia (big deal!). The reason seems plain enough; Clemons and the vast majority of his readers (at least his American readers) are white, and doing all right economically. The people most likely to need a lawyer, or be abused in prison, or have children and no access to a decent school are more often black, and poor.
    I’m sure Clemons and his readers mean well enough. Nominally, they are for equal rights, civil rights for everyone. Practically, they aren’t.

    Reply

  27. Don Bacon says:

    The church and the government have a natural, mutual affinity with their inclinations to control our lives in every aspect — reproduction, maturity, habits, consumption, marriage and death. So saying that the state was involved in one of our life’s decisions isn’t too far removed from saying a church was. A pox on both their houses, in that respect.

    Reply

  28. questions says:

    Dirk,
    To the best of my limited knowledge, Charlemagne added a marriage sacrament in c. 800.
    Evangelical,
    Churches discriminate all the time. Religion is a kind of bigotry in that it accepts only its kind and does not generally tolerate outsiders, and gives its benefits mostly to insiders or potential insiders. Individual religionists may well resist the institutional bigotry, but the institutions define themselves in terms of those who belong and those who don’t.
    Churches are not required ever to marry anyone, and religious charities are allowed to discriminate as desired. Religious bigotry will always be safe. Catholic priests are not required to marry Jewish couples, nor marry anyone they deem to be making a terrible mistake.

    Reply

  29. dirk says:

    Re: the post by Susan Zenier, May 07 2009, 8:58PM, and her assertion that “Marriage is a religious ceremoney.”[sic]
    Not, that’s not true. My wife and I were married by a Justice of the Peace, and we have a “CERTIFICATE OF MARRIAGE”. No religion was involved.
    I resent the religious-right trying to hijack marriage to their own twisted ends. There is no mention (to my knowledge) of a “marriage ceremony” in the bible. Abraham went into a tent with Sarah, and “he knew her” and that was it, bop-do-de-do-dah, they were married. Basta!
    Jesus supposedly turned water into wine at a wedding CELEBRATION, but again, no wedding ceremony.
    To me this the crux of the matter. Any pair of adults should be able to go before a judge and get married, and be entitled to all the rights and privileges thereof, period.
    If the religious right also wants to do something extra in their church to have their marriage “sanctified” before whatever bogey-man they want to — they should have at it. Just don’t think you have the exclusive right to the word “marriage.”
    And, yes, I think Obama should stand up on this. “Civil unions” are a dodge on the issue.

    Reply

  30. Don Bacon says:

    evangelical,
    Your concern for Catholic charities is touching, given that most evangelicals don’t even consider Catholics to be Christians.
    Bottom line: Religion shouldn’t trump basic human rights. The US was founded on the principle of separation of church and state, with the latter established to protect our human rights. Those two interests are now being entwined (leading to your reference to Catholic charities) and that is wrong, which is the point of this posting.
    In other words, your comment proves the point.

    Reply

  31. Don Bacon says:

    Again, Steve is correct on the issue.
    America Exceptionalism, that theory which propounds that the US is supremely ordained to dictate to others, and which wigwag and DanK are supporting, is built on sand. The US has no business counseling other countries on their internal affairs (extreme behavior excluded) particularly when our own racist, discriminatory house is in disorder.

    Reply

  32. evangelical says:

    As an evangelical who is agnostic about gay marriage, I find the harsh language of “bigotry” so causally thrown around disturbing. If you want to promote a gay rights agenda, I would like to hear about what happens to the Catholic charities and other religious organizations in involved when your utopia agenda is achieved. Once it gay marriage is the norm, then these organizations will be sued for discrimination. That is the damage I fear.

    Reply

  33. questions says:

    Not sure what the distinction is between “bigotry” and “sincere religious conviction.”
    It may be impossible to be morally consistent, but I think WigWag has a point that if we’re going to be domestic moralists, we probably ought to be international moralists as well. And when we instantly realize that international moralism fails at some level because of alliances, war issues, trade issues — because of expedience — we should equally realize that the same holds true domestically.
    It’s not an easy distinction to make between what is “my” country and what is “someone else’s”. Alabama isn’t “my state”. POA’s views aren’t “my” views. The south isn’t “my” region. Saudi Arabia isn’t “my” country. It’s harder than one would wish.
    Really, the issue isn’t “hypocrisy” (please note spelling…). The issue is that we have to live together and we have to cobble and jerry rig our way to coexistence. we need to recognize when realism, progressive or otherwise, works and when it fails, and proceed accordingly.

    Reply

  34. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve, given the extent of US power, in some cases we can have even more influence and efficacy abroad than we do at home. The US military is more powerful, and more capable of mounting effective opposition to human rights initiatives it doesn’t like, than almost any foreign government.
    But we don’t always use the efficacy we have to influence others abroad because, in many cases, there is something else we want from them instead, and we have to make a choice about what is more important.
    The same cold political calculations are made at home in dealing with domestic power blocs. Some causes get thrown under the bus in order to extract support from a broader coalition of allies for other fights. I’m not saying that Obama has made the right calculations, but machiavellian realism doesn’t just begin at the water’s edge.
    Hey, I’m still pissed that Obama handed off the Iran portfolio to the utterly inappropriate Dennis Ross, has linked the promised Iran initiatives to the I-P peace process in a way that gives Binyamin Netanyahu a veto over overriding US national security interests, and has walked back most of the 2008 campaign talk about Iran, effectively screwing those of us who were attracted to Obama because of the hope of a substantively different policy in that area.
    It’s politics. It smells. Welcome to the ranks of the hosed.

    Reply

  35. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “But to distract with Saudi Arabia issues is off base in my view”
    To compare this issue using two nations with TOTALLY different set of mores and laws on the role of religion in government is asinine.
    We hold ourselves up as a nation that has risen above forcing religious doctrine on our citizens. I don’t need to remind anyone here the huge difference that is to the role of religion in Muslim countries and societies. To decry the Muslim treatment of gays is understandable from a moral standpoint, but it is ludicrous to advance the notion that we should meddle in or dictate the role religion plays in any government other than our own.
    Steve is 100% correct in questioning the fairness or wisdom of being accused of hypocricy here. When we meddle in policies, beliefs, or practices that are so deeply woven into foreign societies, it can come to no good end. Frankly, and realistically, its none of our business how Saudi society treats its gays and its women. Is adhering to strict religious doctrine really a human rights issue if a nation’s laws and practices adhere to the beliefs of the majority that practice that religion? After all, Saudi Arabia does not purport itself to be what we purport ourselves to be, does it? Where do we see Saudi Arabia claiming to separate church and state?
    Actually, its comical seeing some call Steve a “hypocrite” when they are staunch defenders of a nation, (and its agents), that fry other human beings in white phosphorous, imprison them in sewage invested tracts of land, and deprive them of their basic infrastructural needs and substainance. When looked at morally and logically, Israel is far far more disdainful of “human rights” than Saudi Arabia is, and its abuses are driven more by bigotry than by sincere religious conviction.
    So, when considering it in this vein, WHO is the hypocrite?

    Reply

  36. Dan Kervick says:

    The New Hampshire Senate passed a same-sex marriage bill last week. It’s now on John Lynch’s desk.
    http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20090508-NEWS-905080401

    Reply

  37. DonS says:

    Eugene Robinson, WAPO, has arelevant column
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/07/AR2009050703055.html
    My own view, in the 21st century, gays rights are indisputably a civil right’s issue; evolving social thinking verifies the legitimacy. Is there a virulent opposition? Is there a contemplative opposition? What else has ever been the case with civil rights?

    Reply

  38. Josh says:

    Correction: Hawaii does NOT recognize gay marriage, and yesterday tabled its civil unions bill for the session. Hawaii recognizes only a very limited reciprocal beneficiary relationship. I agree with you that Obama needs to step up to the plate on these issues to see any movement.

    Reply

  39. Steve Clemons says:

    Dan — thanks for your interesting note. I am a progressive realist, at least in my own asseessment. But at home — when it comes to the rights of citizens here — I have not been selective. I have opposed domestic wiretaps, opposed torture by our government, opposed suspension of habeas corpus for those imprisoned, and oppose limitations on the rights of women to choose their own course on reproductive issues. I am not selective here at home and I see no contradiction at all between my domestic agitation for essential rights — on which I have been entirely consistent — and my view that we don’t have the same efficacy or position to agitate in the same regard beyond our borders. I do believe in human rights and democracy — but there is something fundamentally different about pursuing those causes abroad and pursuing them at home.
    I do strongly believe that America’s course with Russia, China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia must go a different direction — and I’m up front about it.
    I am also up front about the fact that Barack Obama epent a lot of time chasing the gay community and made statements that he must be held to account for when it came to gays in the military. These issues are attached to other rights that are part of a number of key civil and human rights concerns by gay Americans. And I believe that Barack Obama and his team are not realists in this case — but are making bad choices. They will feel some political pain from the choices they are making.
    But to distract with Saudi Arabia issues is off base in my view. I am very committed to improving the US-Saudi relationship and will stay on that course.
    All best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  40. Dan Kervick says:

    I think Steve’s criticism of WigWag is unfair. WigWag correctly points out that Steve has worked very hard recently to promote US relationship with Saudi Arabia, despite a truly odious civil rights situation in Saudi Arabia – not just toward gays, but toward just about every one in that harsh, monarchical country who isn’t male and whose surname isn’t as-Saudiyya. Nor do the Saudi’s simply stick to themselves. They have preserved their own power by helping a Wahhabist clerical establishment spread the most backward, fanatical and puritanical form of Islam around the region.
    And Steve would no doubt answer that while those Saudi attitudes and behaviors are very troubling, there are to his mind bigger strategic fish to fry involving vital American interests, and that the US-Saudi relationship is central to the promotion of those interests. So the Saudi human rights picture is demoted to the background while the other strategic issues are promoted to the foreground. That’s the nature of “realism”.
    Obama has many issues on his plate, some of which involve overhauling Pentagon spending priorities, and retaining the support of our all-powerful, gay-hating military establishment as he seeks to change the nation’s nuclear posture and manage two and a half wars bequeathed to him by his predecessor. There are also some domestic issues, such as the major health care initiative going forward this summer and fall, and the ongoing economic policy initiatives that require sustaining political support from the broad center of American politics and marginalizing the angry, raving-lunatic right by giving them nothing to shoot at.
    So he has demoted same sex marriage and promoted other issues. It’s depressing. It’s ugly. But that’s politics, and that’s “realism.”
    If Steve were a tireless campaigner for human rights around the world, his complaints would have more credibility. But Steve is a self-described “Nixonian realist”, and his human rights concerns are very selective.
    I’m in no position to cast the first stone either. I support a diplomatic opening to Iran and a related overhaul of US strategic relationships in the Middle East, tilting away from older allies and toward Iran, because I believe Iran is the new center of gravity in that part of the world, and we’ll all be safer and better off if we move in that direction. But I know Iran has a record of treating gays and foreign journalists very badly. (On the other hand, Iran is more democratic than Saudi Arabia, and women have many more opportunities in Iran than they do in the Wahhabi monarchy.)

    Reply

  41. questions says:

    Chari Daignault,
    In fact, the wait-crowd (at least this particular member) isn’t having a hard time seeing hetero privilege. Rather this member sees huge backlashes over the course of recent American history. Read _The Hollow Hope_ to get a sense of the concerns.
    Right now we’re at a point where states are legalizing gay marriage, acceptance is growing across the country, the generational divide is striking. We were, according to Rosenberg, at this point with regard to abortion and school desegregation — both major civil rights concerns akin to gay marriage. The Supreme Court stepped in even as opinions across the country were changing and bam! a backlash that set back the cause, that turned the solid south into a Republican bastion, that created the new right. The ripples of these moves are felt by many people over several generations.
    So the motivation of “wait for change” is that when we wait, we do pay at some level and the cost is burdensome and unjust, but when we don’t wait, we pay even more.
    So yes, there are human rights at stake, and there have been in the past, but the future matters, perhaps more than the present.

    Reply

  42. questions says:

    Andrew Meh,
    Isn’t “poll-driven politics” what representation is about?
    I realize that there are endless complications over the represent-or-lead dichotomy. And of course, the Constitution is supposed to guarantee a set of basic rights regardless of their popularity, but we can amend the Constitution through a popularity contest of sorts. So polls really do matter at some level if there’s to be popular sovereignty.

    Reply

  43. Chari Daignault says:

    Steve,
    I’m sure many of the folks who have put forth a “wait until our issues are taken care of, then we’ll look at yours” attitude aren’t really thinking things through.
    It’s difficult for many to see through the blinders of their hetero privilege and admit that although there are indeed many, many issues on Obama’s plate — there is room for all.
    When you don’t have to worry about whether or not you can cover your family with medical coverage from your job; when you don’t have to worry whether or not you’ll be allowed in a hospital room to see your loved one; when you don’t have to worry about whether your estate will in fact be left to the one you’ve chosen; it’s pretty easy to push these issues aside and deem them as “lesser” problems to be solved.
    To paraphrase Secretary Clinton, LGBT rights are human rights. There is no “these issues are more important than those”.
    Obama and his administration [who are all well-equipped to handle *all* our issues] need to step up and address the issues of LGBT Americans.

    Reply

  44. Twentyone says:

    I realize that I’m young and naive. However, why doesn’t anyone discuss changing the legal status of all current marriages to legal “civil unions” which is what they should be. Then anyone can get “married” in their church but it would have no impact on their taxes or how the government viewed them. Isn’t this how couples should be in a country that recognizes the separation of church and state?
    If a church won’t marry gays that’s fine. They believe in virgin birth and life after death, their doctrine should have no legal implications. Why not not simply strip “marriage” of its legal weight?
    Civil Unions for all!

    Reply

  45. Paul Norheim says:

    WigWag,
    Steve points out the gap between your habitual geostrategic
    considerations and (seemingly non-moralistic) analysis of the
    players in Middle East politics, and your consistent moralism
    with regards to human rights in Muslim countries.
    Dont`t you think that your argument would have had more
    weight (that is: moral weight) if your criticism had been more
    evenhanded?
    Or are you happy with the status quo at TWN: some people
    channeling their moral outrage against Israel`s treatment of
    Palestinians, while you almost exclusively target Israel`s
    neighbors for their treatment of gays and women?
    Who is displaying hypocrisy here?
    I guess you`re right: “All of us are hypocritical sometimes”. And
    as a consequence: All of us are throwing stones from glass
    houses sometimes.

    Reply

  46. AndrewMeh says:

    Obama’s silence on gay rights is completely inexcusable. This is country isn’t the same place it was five to seven years ago. Things have changed a lot; people aren’t nearly as xenophobic as they used to be. Obama can no longer argue that he has to refrain from taking a position for political reasons. And even if he did, that wouldn’t be a legitimate excuse. Leaders are supposed to lead and not take polls before every single decision. This sort of poll driven politics is exactly the sort of cynicism that Obama denounced during the campaign and yet now he’s embracing it.
    But this is part of the bigger problem – Obama shows nothing but contempt for the left. On every issue he says he’s open to debate, unless it involves the progressive position. On healthcare, on Israel, on so many different fronts – he’s rejected an open minded approach.
    And what is this nonsense about “engagement” with Iran when his Administration has just started to make wholly new threats about sanctions? Bush didn’t even support gasoline sanctions. Bush is starting to look more and more moderate on Iran; HE was the one who released the NIE report which declared that Iran was not actively pursuing nuclear weapons – something Obama and the Democrats never mention these days.

    Reply

  47. arthurdecco says:

    “You are extremely smart — and I know that this distraction you have offered this time is beneath you and your typically higher ordered capacity for serious thinking and argument.” Steve Clemons, speaking to Wig Wag.
    First of all, you’re confusing clever with smart, Mr. Clemons. Big Mistake. They’re not remotely the same thing.
    Your rebuttal to Wig Wag was an extremely gracious response to a person you surely KNOW has been a font of disinformation and bottomless well of slurs and slanders here at TWN.
    Wig Wag’s post, the post you referred to, wasn’t “beneath … your typically higher ordered capacity for serious thinking and argument”.
    On the contrary, it was lockstep-in-line with Wig Wag’s numerous past forays into propagandistic fantasy disguised as fact.
    Methinks you may be paying too much attention to Wig Wag’s verbal pyrotechnics and forgetting to keep your eyes on the ball?
    Jet Lag?

    Reply

  48. WigWag says:

    “You are extremely smart — and I know that this distraction you have offered this time is beneath you and your typically higher ordered capacity for serious thinking and argument.”
    Thank you for your kind words (I think). Your comment is spoken like the true realist you are. I just disagree that expressing some criticism of Saudi Arabia’s policies towards gay people and other minorities is “meddling in the internal affairs of other states.”
    In my opinion the United States should view its relationships with other nations through a variety of different lenses not exclusively through the prism of narrow self-interest. While human rights and the treatment of vulnerable minorities shouldn’t be dispositive, I don’t think they should be completely ignored either.
    Of course we are both citizens of the United States and it is especially appropriate that we critique our own government’s policies when disagree with them.
    But you have to admit that you blog about Saudi Arabia alot (especially recently)so I just don’t understand why mentioning Saudi Arabia’s attitude about its gay citizens is out of bounds.
    I do have great respect for you and for your willingness to tolerate diverse opinions on your site.
    We disagree but I respect your opinion and I appreciate your willingness to allow me to express mine on your blog.

    Reply

  49. Zathras says:

    It is just remarkable that anyone could look at the United States today and say with a straight face that the biggest civil rights issue it faces is the way its federal and state governments treat homosexuality.

    Reply

  50. questions says:

    It’s frustrating to wait for justice. Sometimes it’s even impossible. Gay marriage is part and parcel of human justice, but sadly, waiting and letting the political process take its time is likely a wise decision. If the changes come with a high degree of legitimacy, if they come from the bottom up, from state legislatures and the deep convictions of citizens, then they will be accepted. If they come from the courts, via fiat, from the executive, they lose the legitimacy they need.
    So, no, it’s not cowardly of Obama nor overly “states rights-y;” rather it shows deep awareness of how change happens. Note that many of the New England states used the legislative process to get get marriage passed. This is good all around.

    Reply

  51. Steve Clemons says:

    WigWag — with all due respect, I totally disagree. I write about
    many other countries and their policies — and have made very
    clear that what I care most about Saudi Arabia are the strategic
    choices it makes and our broad partnership with them. I believe
    that human rights should be a part of the many aspects of the
    relationship — but I don’t believe in deep meddling in the
    internal affairs of other states. And i believe that we should
    lobby for human rights and democratic institution building as we
    can and should always try and present a compelling example for
    others. But I totally reject the notion that human rights should
    be the primary lense through which we should view our
    interactions with other key global stakeholders when there are
    much higher national security priorities to consider. I have said
    this many times. No hypocrisy at all in my view.
    I am, however, a citizen of the United States — and i have issues
    I care about deeply here — including civil rights. I hope Saudis,
    Indonesians, Japanese, and others are all building networks to
    support their own political, minority, ethnic, and gender rights.
    But seriously — you are off base in trying to undermine or cast
    doubt on my frustration with the Obama White House for selling
    key promises on gay civil rights down the road to my views on
    Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, and other key powers in the world.
    You are extremely smart — and I know that this distraction you
    have offered this time is beneath you and your typically higher
    ordered capacity for serious thinking and argument.
    I am a citizen of the US — I am not of Saudi Arabia. There is a
    huge difference.
    best, steve clemons

    Reply

  52. Don Bacon says:

    Faith = believing something that you know isn’t true. It’s a natural marriage — er, civil union — for government.

    Reply

  53. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “what if, instead, its some other group? say… people at State or DOD saying that muslim countries, ‘many of whom have narrow and bigoted views’, will not be happy about having openly gay troops on their soil?”
    I doubt “openly gay” means wearing pink uniforms or red white and blue thongs while on parade. Your argument is asinine. Fact is, most Muslims don’t want United States troops on their soil, gay or not.
    And yes, the only concievable reason for Obama to be reticent to join the fray on this issue IS the evangelical wackjobs, who usually have a wackjob pastor or preacher feeding their pious world views with a steady diet of excuses to hate something, anything, or everything.(Who, incidentally, seem to think its ok to torture if you’re in uniform, but its not OK to be gay if you’re in uniform).

    Reply

  54. decora says:

    “I remain very uncomfortable with evangelicals and other preachers — many of whom have narrow and bigoted views of America’s 21st century civil rights challenges.”
    1. isnt that a bigoted statement, against preachers? who do you think is performing all these new gay weddings? isnt it preachers?
    2. what evidence do you have that ‘evangelicals and other preachers’ are driving obama’s don’t ask don’t tell policy?
    3. what if, instead, its some other group? say… people at State or DOD saying that muslim countries, ‘many of whom have narrow and bigoted views’, will not be happy about having openly gay troops on their soil?
    So…. Instead of “[believing] that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality” … instead, you just took your pre-conceived idea (dumb evangeicals hate gays and are controlling Obama’s brain) and then based your military policy on that idea (repeal DADT tomorrow morning 8 A M Sharp!), .. wait.. this all seems so familiar. . .

    Reply

  55. PissedOffAmerican says:

    On issue after issue, No Balls Obama shows us he is a political coward. Mum on the Gaza bloodbath. Mum on the Freeman castration. Mum on the issue of gay marraige. Wimpy and tepid on the issue of prosecuting the sick pieces of shit that turned us into a torture state.
    I think Obama has shown us all we need to see in order to make the judgement that he is just one more posturing fraud hawking bullshit to the people.

    Reply

  56. WigWag says:

    DonS, there is nothing inappropriate about pointing out Steve’s inconsistency in criticizing President Obama for his stance on gay marraige while at the same time remaining silent about the manner in which the Saudis treat gay people. Steve has blogged extensively about Saudi Arabia and numerous recent posts alluded to the conference on Saudi-American relations that Steve just organized. I am not “implying” anything about “faux hyprocracy” I am saying it is actual hypocracy to criticize the President on gay rights while at the same time refusing to criticize the literally murderous policies the Saudis direct towards gay people (actually, Steve seems reticent to criticize the Saudis about anything at all).
    All of us are hypocritical sometimes; it’s not a capital offense. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with expressing my opinion about it either.

    Reply

  57. Don Bacon says:

    Wigwag,
    While I agree that Steve is lax in criticizing Saudi Arabia for abject discrimination, he is also correct in directing his primary criticism at his own government. Steve’s primary focus is on his own government, as it should be. Citizenship trumps universality.
    “I know my own nation best. That’s why I despise it the most. And know and love my own people, too, the swine. I’m a patriot. A dangerous man.”–Edward Abbey
    A bit extreme, yes, but it makes the point: Clemons is a patriot.

    Reply

  58. DonS says:

    Wigwag, you unfairly drag Saudi Arabia into this, and too many, discussions. There is no comparability between Saudi treatment of gays, and the issue at hand. And you are off the beam in trying to box Steve into some faux hypocrisy ( which is what you are implying). Let’s drown the baby — treatment of gay rights in this country — with the bath water, Saudi Arabia’s cultural history. Huh?
    Susan, marriage is both a legal — contractual — and optionally a religious affair. As a legal matter, civil right’s concepts clearly are relevant. Your argument, that making a ‘stink’ about equal treatment of gays incites backlash, can equally apply to any wrong that ought to be righted. As to your escalation/conflation of the same sex marriage with [the demotion] of other social/legal issues on the agenda, how about not blaming a legitimate constituency, demanding recgnition and rights, for the potential derailment of the plethora of other issues also deserving attention. Why pick on gays and demand that they need to sacrifice their deserved rights? Thin argument.

    Reply

  59. Susan Zenier says:

    I do not agree that marriage is a civil right. Marriage is a religious ceremoney. Civil unions are governed by statutes in each state. All benefits to all parties should come through the state (I champion the French system of civil unions.)
    And, while you’re demanding that the currrent admin. behave as you wish, please remember the backlash created in the past by actions of ACT UP.
    Just keep demanding and you can watch the opposition get stronger. Do you remember the howls of outrage from the conservative voters when the TV pictures of gay marriages in MA and CA were shown during the 2004 campaign?
    I do not care what adults do, but I am damned if I want another Republican admin. again before we get health care and a few other issues solved for all our citizens.

    Reply

  60. WigWag says:

    Steve says,
    “Same sex marriages are now a real part of the scene too — something allowed in the enormous state of California for a short time until the day that Barack Obama himself was elected nationally and won the California vote.”
    This actually understates the case. President Obama’s victory in California actually insured that Prop 8 would pass. African Americans who proudly came out to vote for Barack Obama voted for Prop 8 in disproportionate numbers. Had African Americans cast their votes on the proposition in the same manner as white Californians, proposition 8 would have failed. Obama knows this, he just doesn’t care.
    And I hope its not indelicate to point out that while it is well and good and right for Steve to excoriate President Obama about this issue, he doesn’t come to this debate with entirely clean hands himself. After all, Steve is happy to point out how critically important our relationship with Saudi Arabia is, yet he has never used his blog to criticize the Saudis for the manner in which they treat gay people (or women or racial, ethnic or religious minorities).
    Yes, Obama has hardly been courageous about gay marriage or “don’t ask, don’t tell” but in Saudi Arabia the question isn’t about whether gay people can marry but about whether gay people can escape execution.
    Respect for cultural sensitivities is fine, but human rights are either universal or they’re not. Steve’s criticism of President Obama would ring truer if he had something to say about the behavior of his Saudi friends.

    Reply

  61. ToddinHB says:

    His political Spidey-sense prevents him from going public on supporting gay marriage until he wins the second term, or polls decisively pronounce that the national sentiment has changed. I know it sucks, but c’mon, even California passed Prop. 8 just one year ago!

    Reply

  62. Valerie Ploumpis says:

    Thanks for your post, Steve.
    I agree.
    But Don’t Ask Don’t Tell certainly isn’t the only thing Obama could and should be doing on LGBT rights — either by Executive Order or by pushing Congress to enact laws that ensure full equality.
    Foremost would be Employment Non-Discrimination (ENDA), and the repeal of the hateful Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
    He could and should be pushing the Senate to move on the Hate Crimes bill (Matthew Shepard Act).
    I was happy to see that Secretary Clinton made a statement to the United Nations that the U.S. wants to protect LGBT people around the world. But far more can and should be done by President Obama to urge a stop to the murder and torture and burning of gay people in huge areas of the world.
    Obama could also use his executive powers to recognize the foreign partners of LGBT Americans and allow them to stay in the United States. Gay families with mixed status (i.e. legal/illegal) are being torn apart.
    And he could stop the deportation of LGBT foreign people who risk imprisonment, or worse, in their home countries.

    Reply

  63. Clay says:

    Poor Obama. If only he could have a clone. That would work! Then he could be the master multi-tasker we need.
    It’s hard to disagree with you, Steve, but why does he need to lead the debate at all? The debate is certainly alive and well at this point. Rachel Maddow is giving more face time to Westpointers who admit they have “the gay.” Obama is probably worrying more about torture or something.
    By the way, Steve, I haven’t seen you do anything on torture recently.

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