Comment: Is Obama all talk and no action on gay issues?
Impatience is growing amongst the USA’s gay and lesbian community over President Barack Obama’s slow approach to tackling the LGBT issues he promised to address.
Obama, whose campaign slogan was ‘change’, had vowed to repeal the ban on openly gay military personnel in the armed forces, the so-called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell rule, but so far there has been no sign of progress.
While his promise formed part of the campaign that ultimately won his presidency, the Pentagon said last month that there were no plans to repeal the ban, despite claims that the president can do so without Congressional approval. A study from the Palm Center at the University of California said earlier this month that lifting the ban is well within Obama’s capabilities.
In addition, his promise to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act (which blocks federal benefits to same-sex, married partners) has not materialised, leaving gay and lesbian Americans wondering how long they must wait for change to occur.
President Obama has spoken of his opposition to the law, stating on his campaign website: “[We should] fully repeal the Defence of Marriage Act”. He has also described it as an “abhorrent law”. Gay marriage campaigners now must wait until June 22nd, when he must respond to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of eight gay married couples and three surviving spouses.
Speaking to Politico.com, gay rights activist David Mixner said: “Obama is out of step with his party, which is overwhelmingly in favour of marriage at this stage. He’s out of step with the next generation.”
On the controversial issue of gay marriage, Obama has not openly declared his support. It has been reported that he had backed the cause as early as 1996 but subsequently withdrew his support. He has since been quoted as saying: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Yet America’s population is becoming increasingly pro-marriage for gay couples, with recent opinion polls showing that more than 40 per cent of people would back the move. Obama may be keen to avoid rocking the boat amongst his less liberal supporters, but public opinion suggests he may be ‘behind the times’.
Last week, Obama released a proclamation stating that June is to be LGBT Pride month, but gestures such as this mean little to the millions of gay Americans who want to marry, adopt children, or simply enjoy the same benefits received by straight couples.
In the wake of recent events such as the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban on gay marriage, American protesters have made their voices heard, and now the LGBT community must wait and see if Obama will listen.