Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Before getting to the Obama administration: Thursday, the Maryland Senate followed the House’s earlier approval of a bill making marriage of same gender couples legal. From Keen News:
The Maryland Senate … gave final legislative approval to a marriage equality bill that the governor is expected to soon sign. The vote was 25 to 22. …
The vote marked the third time a state legislature has given final approval to marriage equality in the past two weeks. Two of the three states (in Maryland and Washington) are likely to be put the law before voters this November. The third state (New Jersey) had the legislation immediately vetoed by its governor.
The usual advocacy mixture of “good / bad” news. The same can be said related to the Obama administration’s careful, cautious steps toward LGBT equality, with the “bad” currently at the forefront.
From John Aravosis:
So was Hillary only joking when she said “˜gay rights are human rights’?
The US won’t be cutting foreign aid to countries that violate the human rights of their gay citizens, we learned today (Feb. 23). So don’t worry about what the Secretary of State said only a few months ago. She was only joking, I guess.
From US ambassador to Liberia, Linda Thomas Greenfield:
“˜Speaking … with the Daily Observer, Ambassador Greenfield said her government’s policy on gay rights was clear and in the public domain.
She stated … “˜I think the issue that has appeared in Liberia is the issue of misconception that United States aid is tied to Liberia’s actions in these areas, and this is not the case’ … .
Asked by the Daily Observer if she “supports gay rights in Liberia,” Greenfield said:
… I strongly believe that gay rights are human rights.’ …
(Aravosis writes) And that’s great. But when you say you support our civil rights, but aren’t willing to do anything about it, then you’re not really supporting us. Especially when you then say:
“˜[Greenfield] told the Daily Observer that she was surprised to learn that gay rights in Liberia were an issue. …
She doesn’t know? She was surprised to hear that this is an issue?
Aravosis has good reasons to be skeptical, as he lays out. That same day the AP reported Liberia’s Senate was considering a bill that would strengthen existing anti-gay laws. The report included the fact that Liberian Senator Jewel Taylor (former first lady) submitted a bill making homosexuality a first-degree felony. Aravosis continues:
It is odd … that while the US ambassador to Liberia knew nothing of the gay rights controversy in the country she’s responsible for, the US embassy in South Africa knew about what was happening … .
… some of us actually thought Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent UN speech meant something when she said:
“˜The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy.’ …
… I think Hillary’s UN speech was huge. … But … (w)e can’t have US ambassadors sending not-so-coded messages to foreign governments that they can violate the human rights of their own citizens with impunity.
Also on February 23, the Obama administration made known another LGBT related decision. From Think Progress, Zack Ford writes:
White House Rejects Hold On Deciding Gay Couples’ Green Card Petitions
When the Obama administration announced in August that it would be conducting a case-by case review of active deportations, this seemed to ensure same-sex binational couples would have the opportunity to stay together, especially given that the working group included an LGBT liaison. Though the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents the federal government from granting green cards to foreign-born same-sex spouses, advocates argued that those cases could be deemed low priority and at the very least delayed until the law is changed or found unconstitutional by the courts. Immigration and Customs Enforcement even agreed to defend same-sex couples from deportation.
But things changed. Andrew Harmon, at The Advocate:
The Obama administration is standing firm against calls by LGBT rights groups and lawmakers to put a blanket hold on deciding green card petitions from married, binational gay couples. Instead, those petitions in all likelihood will continue to be rejected … .
The decision is being criticized by some advocates as a campaign-year calculation based on politics, not on sound legal analysis. …
Of course campaign considerations are in play.
Harmon reports that LGBT advocates (Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality, and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) met with government officials on January 30, at the Department of Justice. The administration “contingency” included “senior officials” from the White House, DOJ and Department of Homeland Security. But now …
DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard (told) … The Advocate … : “˜Pursuant to the Attorney General’s guidance, the Defense of Marriage Act remains in effect and the Executive Branch … will continue to enforce it unless and until Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial determination that it is unconstitutional.’
Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said:
“˜Nobody has offered a legal basis as to the decision that’s been made’ by the administration … . “˜All they’ve said is that they’re not going to [hold the green card petitions in abeyance]. So it has to be a political decision. How can they say that DOMA is legally indefensible, yet proceed to deny married couples the legal right to be together in the United States?’
I’d like to hear the administration’s non-political answer to that question.
(US and Rainbow Flags photo via Think Progress )