Kate Clinton

Gut Check

Filed By Kate Clinton | June 24, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Dick Cheney, ENDA, gay rights, hate crimes against LGBT people, LGBT community, Obama Administration, priorities

When Dick Cheeeney was asked why he had not served in Vietnam, he harrumphed that he "had other priorities in the '60s than military service." Like applying for six deferments.

GutCheck.jpgSide note: come to find out, the very long E in "Cheeeney" is the family's preferred pronunciation of their surname. The ubiquitous-as-homemade sin, Liz Cheeeney announced this top-secret fact on a morning show, and now Chris Matthews has dropped the long A in Chaney and cheeses out Cheeeney whenever he can. I just thought he was being sarcastic. I won't tell you how my household still says the name.

But forty years after the 60s, prioritizing is still a problem.

As much as I was fully prepared to be disappointed in the Obama administration, I am surprised by my disappointment. They seem to have other priorities than full civil rights for LGBT people.

And, heck, I know Obama has a lot going on - health care, the economy, two wars. I'm not one of those old coot guys complaining that Obama's trying to do too much. I think they're just jealous of his energy. In fact, under the federal radar, many things are changing at the agency level. The US Census will now count married gay Americans. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, now unrecognizable from its early iteration, creeps through committee. Hate Crimes legislation moves forward.

After an LGBT firestorm greeted the Justice Department's review of the Defense of Marriage Act with its concluding argument that put gay marriage in the same paragraph as pedophilia and incest, the White House quickly announced domestic partnership benefits for some federal employees. Coinky-dink? Ya think?

It was perhaps symbolic that the photo op of Obama signing the memorandum entitling federal employees to the equivalent of a gift certificate to the early bird special at The Olive Garden in Bethesda [one time only!] seemed to chop off the heads of the gay leaders present behind him. Awkward.

In our house, we often wonder if Obama has any gay advisors close to him on staff. The fact of the matter is two thirds of the Obama administration is former Clinton staffers. They are still traumatized by the early hijacking of their administration by the issue of gays in the military. I've always thought when the history of that moment is written, it will be revealed that some Republican mole was in the crowd whenever Clinton jogged on the mall or stopped in at McDonalds and would shout "What about gays in the military?" Finally Clinton just offhanded something off-message and undisciplined like "yeah, we'll look into it" and off the rails we went.

The Clinton people in the Obama administration still seethe when they recall the day Clinton's OMB was announcing exciting details of their new budget to an empty room because the press was over covering cranky little Sen. Sam Nunn giving his report on the difficulty of humping in confined quarters on submarines. Mind your head! The disastrously chicken Don't Ask Don't Tell non-solution became the cynical mantra of the next sixteen years.

I don't really want to hear how naïve I am in the ways of politics. Save it. I have grown up a lot in the sixteen years since the Clinton years. So has the gay movement. So has America. It's time for the Obama administration to gut check their priorities.

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