Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
(NOTE: Beginning next week, Queer Talk moves to noon on Fridays.)
Last week ago I wrote Obama Delays Implementation of Promised Work Place Protection. For months, the administration had, as ThinkProgress reported it, “dodg(ed) questions about the progress of an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal contracting.” Instead, the White House announced it will do a study about “whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees require employment protections.”
Candidate Obama said he’d work to make things like the Employment Nondiscrimination Act happen, and this executive order is seen as a step in that direction. ENDA has been around since 1994, and the claim that yet another study is required is ridiculous.
From Igor Volsky at Nation of Change:
Gay rights activists are … plan(ning) to launch a ‘We Can’t Wait’ campaign to urge President Obama to … issue the directive ahead of the November elections. The effort, which co-opts one of the Obama campaign’s own slogans, will be funded by ‘Jonathan Lewis, son of billionaire Democratic benefactor Peter Lewis.’
Obama, of course, is not the originator of the “We Can’t Wait” phrase, one employed by by Martin Luther King in his 1963 memoir, Why We Can’t Wait, in which he argued that a “gradualist” approach wasn’t enough.
“Gradualist” could be a polite way to describe the proposed WH study. Or as Michelangelo Signorile, quoted in Volsky’s piece, described the WH rationale, it “was weak, it was shallow, it was unpersuasive.”
It actually gets worse. Realizing that even HRC was publicly speaking out, the WH then moved to an equally strange second stage. From MetroWeekly:
… White House spokesman Shin Inouye tells Metro Weekly … that ‘the time is right for a comprehensive legislative approach’ to address anti-LGBT workplace discrimination – a reference to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – although he added that ‘the Administration hasn’t taken any options off the table.’
As John Aravosis says about this “time is right” claim regarding ENDA, Uh, no it’s not.
A “comprehensive legislative approach” is certainly needed. We’ve known that since at least 1994. But passing ENDA now is impossible, and everyone knows it. Punting the executive order, then bringing up ENDA, then throwing out that the administration “hasn’t taken any options off the table,” then less than 24 hours later, changing things again and saying the executive order is actually off the table … this doesn’t appear to be anything but an election year scramble of their own creation.
A WaPo story notes, about the “no options off the table” comment that it’s
… an assertion interpreted by activists as a ‘kick-the-can’ approach to avoid inflaming pre-election criticism.
When you kick the can down the road you always run the risk of tripping over it later on. In this case, the tripping started only one or two steps later.
On Thursday, the Washington Post weighed in with a strongly worded editorial. Via Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlogGay, regarding WH press secretary Jay Carney’s efforts to explain Obama’s decision:
Mr. Carney struggled for some eight minutes but was unable to give a satisfactory answer. That’s understandable, because there is no principled reason for refusing to extend such workplace protections to millions of Americans.’
As Sudbay writes:
This was a no-brainer – and it’s clear from the editorials and commentary from the traditional media that no one is buying the White House spin.
At MetroWeekly, Sean Bugg provides some analysis, including the “political pragmatism” of many LGBT’s.
… it’s with a certain level of … experience that so many of us are looking at Obama’s decision … and asking, ‘What the hell?’ …
Making matters worse are the laughable antics of the White House as it contorts itself to explain the inexplicable. …
The questions being raised in Queerdom aren’t just about Obama. Writing at HuffPo, Signorile points out:
One thing that’s being asked is how gay leaders allowed this to happen. Paul Yandura, a gay former Clinton aide, says the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) gave the administration a pass, with HRC sitting on its polling on the issue when it should have released it publicly months ago, and NGLTF not even sending out a press release right after the meeting to criticize the president.
A larger problem is that HRC endorsed the president a year ago, and all the group appears to have gotten in return was his presence as a speaker at their annual dinner. That helps them sell lots of tickets, but doesn’t do much in attaining tangible rights.
Yesterday two things happened. First, The Task Force finally released a statement, urging people to “Join us in telling President Obama to step up right now for workplace equality by issuing an executive order … .”
And second, GetEqual announced “We’re Keeping the Pressure On” actions. After last week’s WH meeting with LGBT organizational representatives where the decision was announced,
… the grassroots erupted – surprising even us with folks’ anger and frustration with the White House. …
… even with all of the mainstream press that this decision has received, it appears they are refusing to back down. …
Starting next week, well be going to Obama for America campaign offices across the country, staging actions that will continue to draw attention to this Executive Order … .
I don’t know what will happen with GetEqual’s “Keeping the Pressure On” or with the “We Can’t Wait” action. But the widespread condemnation of Obama’s decision should make it clear that, among other things, “We can’t wait” to advocate for full equality just because it’s a presidential election year, which is what it appears the WH expected us to do.