After 18 months in office, the harsh realities of politics and compromise have caught up to President Obama. Hailed as a champion of LGBT rights during the 2008 campaign, LGBT rights advocates now give Obama mixed reviews for his performance to date.
In a statement to the Blade, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said "there’s no doubt" that Obama has done more for LGBT people than any other U.S. president in history.
Unfortunately for Solomonese, the "done more for LGBT people than any other U.S. president" bar is so low to the ground that a mobility-impaired ant could get over it without any effort at all. I'm with Richard Socarides: the Obama presidency thus far has "been a disappointing 18 months."
On Inauguration Day, this LGBT rights scorecard was posted on the White House web site:
President Obama did sign the Matthew Shepard Bill--but that can hardly be described as an accomplishment, given that he had nothing to do with the bill's passage (and hadn't done much to advance it during his time in the Senate). The bill had been languishing in Congress for more than a decade before it finally made its way to the president's desk. Moreover, while it's certainly nice to know that LGBT people have legal recourse if they are attacked on the basis of their sexual orientation, that still doesn't do much to address the underlying fundamental inequality that makes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Americans the second most common target of hate crimes after people of color. It should also be noted that the legal recourse afforded by the legislation is totally dependent on whether the police officers who investigate the crime, and the attorneys who prosecute it, agree that it was a hate crime. Otherwise, we're still SOL.
Every other thing on that scorecard remains un-done. Most of them have not even been addressed. (Yes, I know that the House has passed, and the Senate is considering, a crappy compromise bill that the president would like to have us believe constitutes a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but, first, the Congress has not yet passed the bill and the president has threatened to veto it on the grounds that one version contains funding for a controversial fighter engine he does not want to support. Second, even if the bill is passed, the discharges do not stop, and DADT is not repealed, until some future point in time after which the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all certify that the required conditions have been met. There is no guarantee that such certifications will ever be forthcoming, and neither is there any requirement in the law that they are made. In other words, this is a "repeal" of DADT only if you also believe that putting out a press release claiming victory equates to an actual victory. I'm not among those who believe that.
My review of the president's first year and a half in office? An unqualified "Poor." And that goes for more than just gay rights.