Yesterday the White House released President Obama's proclamation in honor of gay pride month. (Complete text after the jump.) Within hours online activists and soothsayers were picking it apart and reading between the lines.
First came the claims that the White House was hiding the proclamation; it couldn't be found on the website. The press corps quickly sent me a link to the paper, but then came the "You can't find it if you search for it!" complaints. I jumped over to the site and found it by simply searching for "LGBT." I also thought I'd see how it easy it was to find the proclamation without searching. I found it easily by clicking The Briefing Room then Presidential Actions and dropped halfway down the page to "Proclamations." Tada. There it was.
Tempest in a teapot. But the nitpicking didn't stop there. In a throwback to the Clinton era in more ways than one - the sniping has settled on what the definition of "appointed" is.
Appointed vs Nominated
Press releases and fact sheets were furiously sent over e-mail and the Advocate did an article entitled, "Pride Proclamation Makes False Claim." The crux of the complaint? The proclamation includes this line:
"I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration."
Critics quickly pointed out that President Clinton's choice for Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Roberta Achtenberg, was nominated on February 2, 1993 - well within the first 100 days. Achtenberg wasn't confirmed, however, until after the 100 day time period. The White House promptly issued this clarification:
"President Obama remains the first president to have openly LGBT candidates confirmed by the Senate during the first 100 days of an Administration."
I guess it all depends on what the definition of
"is" "appoint" is, eh? Seriously, does it matter or are we just picking things apart and trying to find flaws?
President Obama: Oh, Daddy!
It's not just this proclamation either - and we're almost all guilty of it. I've written blog posts and articles asking when Obama will keep his campaign promises. We've published plenty of similar op ed pieces as have dozens of other LGBT blogs. The mainstream media is hounding the administration over Don't Ask Don't Tell. California marriage equality advocate (and frequent TBP guest blogger) Robin Tyler has gone on national media threatening to leave the Democratic party over Proposition 8. Even the Dallas Principles first talking point is aimed squarely at the administration.
Full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals must be enacted now. Delay and excuses are no longer acceptable.
I'm a frequent critic of Indiana Equality. I live in Indiana and they represent me and fellow queer Hoosiers at the Statehouse regardless of my feelings on whether or not their strategy and public actions are correct. I want them to be the best org possible because I have a vested interest in their success, but I feel that they are severely lacking on some basic levels.
Is this the essence of the issue? Queers nationwide have a vested interest in the Obama administration's success on LGBT issues and want them to be our hero, our white knight in shining armor, our salvation and succor - our "fierce champion." And so when we feel slighted, ignored or mollycoddled, we strike back as abused children often do; we attack the person who is genuinely trying to help if we sense they are failing in any slight detail, shifting our anger to them rather than confronting the one who caused the original damage.
We desperately want to believe in the Obama magic. Yet, we've had the Donnie McClurkin fiasco, the Rick Warren dust up, the disappointment that Don't Ask Don't Tell wasn't swept away within days if not hours, and the administration's lack of communication surrounding same-sex marriage news in California, Iowa, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, etc. We want some of Daddy Obama's attention.
And when our champion is occupied saving the American economy, health care of the masses, bailing out massive megacorps in important industries and keeping the world safe from marauding space tomatoes, we tend to get pouty and foul tempered. We scream up to our father figure, "We need attention! Don't you see how important our problems are?"
From Proud To Petulant
Oftentimes a parent is simply busy and not ignoring the child. Sometimes the parent knows better than the kid. Oftentimes our youth learn more at the school of hard knocks than they do in our education systems though; we, as a movement in general, have just as much invested in doing it our own way as we do sitting around and waiting on the President or Congress to deign to notice us.
But at what point do we step over the line from throwing pride parades and protest marches to throwing temper tantrums because someone can't find a page on a website easily? Most pride events in Indiana don't get proclamations from the mayor or Governor. Even in Indianapolis, the mayor doesn't say a word. A few city councilors march in the parade, but state politicians don't - and the mayor or Governor has never participated in the parade. Our local father figures are deadbeat dads.
Personally, I'm glad to see Obama's proclamation. It's an unabashed statement of support from the leader of the free world and the most gay-positive thing to hit Indiana since the Supreme Court decision to legalize sodomy. After all, we've not had the luxury of employment discrimination protections, hate crimes laws, marriage/civil unions/domestic partnerships, or housing protections.
It's time the LGBT community at large wised up to reality. We're never going to have a white knight - only hard working activists. As Stonewall's 40th anniversary happens this month, it's time to realize we're middle aged. We don't need Daddy's approval anymore; we have our own friends and families now.
So, enjoy pride month and energize yourselves to work with the Obama administration to get all of this legislature passed. Skip two beers or a mocha every week and send the cash to a worthy LGBT not-for-profit. Join a local org and help make it better. There's a lot of work that needs done that doesn't require rumors, unfounded innuendo and nitpicking.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 1, 2009
LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2009
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born. During LGBT Pride Month, we commemorate the events of June 1969 and commit to achieving equal justice under law for LGBT Americans.
LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society. There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities. LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country's response to the HIV pandemic.
Due in no small part to the determination and dedication of the LGBT rights movement, more LGBT Americans are living their lives openly today than ever before. I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration. These individuals embody the best qualities we seek in public servants, and across my Administration -- in both the White House and the Federal agencies -- openly LGBT employees are doing their jobs with distinction and professionalism.
The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. LGBT youth should feel safe to learn without the fear of harassment, and LGBT families and seniors should be allowed to live their lives with dignity and respect.
My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. Here at home, I continue to support measures to bring the full spectrum of equal rights to LGBT Americans. These measures include enhancing hate crimes laws, supporting civil unions and Federal rights for LGBT couples, outlawing discrimination in the workplace, ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security. We must also commit ourselves to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic by both reducing the number of HIV infections and providing care and support services to people living with HIV/AIDS across the United States.
These issues affect not only the LGBT community, but also our entire Nation. As long as the promise of equality for all remains unfulfilled, all Americans are affected. If we can work together to advance the principles upon which our Nation was founded, every American will benefit. During LGBT Pride Month, I call upon the LGBT community, the Congress, and the American people to work together to promote equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.