Guest Blogger

Fallen Idol: Why I won't automatically vote Obama in 2012

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 07, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Champaign Illinois, gay rights, LGBT community, Phil Reese, presidential elections

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Phil Reese began his career of LGBT advocacy in central Michigan and now resides in Champaign, IL where he teaches Middle School and attends graduate school at the University of Illinois. Phil is passionate about news, social networking, information science and mobilizing LGBT people to become more active in their communities.

Phillip_Reese.jpgI love Barack Obama. When I saw that 2004 DNC keynote, I didn't see a local politician but a President. I sat there leaning forward on my ripped vinyl college-apartment couch--eyes wide in amazement like Coco Peru--I knew he'd be a Kennedy. I fell for him immediately, my Congressional Crush! I worked hard to get him elected in 2008 and with hundreds of other overjoyed youth, rioted in the streets of Champaign, IL on election night! Even my Republican father wept with joy the night that Obama won. It was the culmination of all my hopes.

But I'm not going to vote for him in 2012.

That is unless he keeps his promises. Upon his election, Obama put forth an 8 point LGBT Civil Rights agenda which included the following:

  • LGBT-inclusive Hate Crimes Statute
  • Employment Non-Descrimination Act
  • Civil Unions
  • DOMA Repeal
  • End DADT
  • Expansion of Adoption Rights
  • Promote AIDS Prevention
  • Microbicides Development Act

To this day--7 months in--the agenda is stalled. Apparently, they left it stuck on the fridge in Chicago. We've gotten 'relocation benefits' for Federal employees, and maybe a lift of the HIV travel ban. However, there was that horrible DOJ DOMA brief. Maybe, like law expert blogger Chris Geidner says, the White House is obligated to file the brief in favor, but that language was unforgivable. Though he didn't write it--nor even read it--at one time, someone else who sat in that chair at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. set out a plaque on his desk saying "The Buck Stops Here." Every American should still reasonably expect that.

In the history of this nation, not a single Federal bill has expanded the rights of LGBT Americans. In fact, the only LGBT bills that have ever passed Congress have limited our rights--like DOMA and DADT. To be fair, the expansion of Federal protections to transgender employees and perspective employees is an incredible gain--downplayed by many prominent LGBT bloggers and pundits--but what about this list? We need to celebrate this victory, but let's not forget that we've not won yet.

Obama has a super-majority in both houses. He also has the bully pulpit. And he's been given carte-blanche for reform. There is record-setting support nationally for LGBT rights--especially when it comes to lifting the military ban on homosexuals. If Obama does not get four of the eight points checked off his list (that's 50%--failing in most U.S. Public Schools, but good enough for me) I will be advocating we all vote 3rd party in 2012.

Mr. Obama, I voted for you with pride and excitement. I love you dearly, and I screamed like a drag queen at a Cher concert when McCain conceded. I want you to have eight years in the White House because I think you're the best thing that's ever happened to America. But, I am a Gay American, and I can get fired, can be refused service, can be thrown out of my apartment for being who I am, I cannot marry the person I love, I cannot sponsor the person I love for citizenship, I cannot serve my country in the military, and I can be systematically stalked and singled out and beaten to death and left tied to a fence in the Wyoming wilderness just because of who I am. And that gruesome and egregious crime will be tried as just another killing, on par with a meth-head robbing a Convenience Store whose gun unexpectedly goes off. You have achieved the American Dream, and given hope back to so many. However my entire life, I've been looked at differently, spit upon and despised. I've been shunned in my church, been dumped by friends, and society. Now it's time you give me hope.

Besides AIDS-Prevention and Microbicides Development, these four actions are possible and necessary. Even though I am not in the Armed Forces, many of my friends and found-family are. Set the precedent: remove the military ban on homosexuals by Executive Order so we can serve openly and proudly. Gays and Lesbians can legally marry the person they love in six states but my country still says: "strangers." Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and allow these families to be families. I am the survivor of hate crime--which is not a crime against a person, but a crime against a community--and I want anyone else who does what was done to my friend Jeremy and me to know that terrorism is not American! Eleven years is too long--where is the Matthew Shepard Act? I am a well-adjusted adult, a gay teacher with reams of wisdom to pass on to the next generation, but a paranoid principal or parent can get me canned in most states, not to mention I could be made homeless by a homophobic land-lord--You must go to Congress and tell them they aren't done until the Trans-Inclusive ENDA passes!

We can help President Obama with ENDA, DOMA-repeal and Hate Crimes by contacting our elected officials at and Hound them until you know what they're voting, and make sure they vote right!

Mr. President, I urge you to keep your promises, and to make real the American Dream for millions of Americans and their loved ones who want to believe in you!

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Erich Riesenberg | July 7, 2009 4:46 PM

I live in Iowa, and the rabid supporters of all the candidates get very tiring after more than a year of campaigning.

This disenchantment with Obama is a bit like listenting to reformed sinners give their life changing advice.

Sorry you were misled, surprise, surprise, politicians are political animals.

Obama did not skip a beat bailing out megabanks. I do believe he is smart and kind but he is still a politician. Wall Street is his base, financially speaking.

I will probably still vote for Obama in 2012, mostly because even if he doesn't fulfill his promises, I'd rather have him than whatever simple-minded, Palin- or Huckabee-esque homophobe the Republicans will probably defecate upon the country.

I'm still worried that Obama's stimulus program might fail, not because I'm for or against it, but because if the economy gets really shitty, a lot of people who supported him could vote for the Republican instead, and we'll be treated to another four to eight years of homophobic bigotry and demagoguery.

My point is, I vote on pragmatism, not just on principal. Voting for some third-party candidate who doesn't have Carrie Prejean's chance in a leper colony of winning might feel good, but it won't actually accomplish anything.

Well, I think that we all wish that there would be changes alot faster. However, Obama has been in office less than 5 months, after 8 years of Republican administration that included Bush proposing a US Constitutional Amendment against same - sex marriage, all the bad Bush judicial appointments, the anti-gay policies in every imaginable way, including federal employees having trouble.

At least now, we see Gay Pride proclamations at the US Department of State, changes in policy that recognize same sex partners of diplomats in foreign assignments and travel, the head of the US Office of personal Management is openly Gay, Obama's White House Gay party 10 days ago. So, while not legal solutions to our agenda, there is a definite change in the "atmospherics" which indicate that we may expect (and demand) real changes during his first term. Let's see what happens in the first 2 years before we shoot ourselves in the foot by turning on Obama.

Too soon people forget their history. The man that put that plaque on his desk that read "The buck stops here" was Harry Truman.
The same man who signed the exectuive order lifting segregation of the armed forces and leading to the modern civial rights era.

I'm saddened that Mr. Obama hasn't realized that lifting DADT is his job. At the end of a long day it takes one person to stand for us. Only one, but it has to be the one that counts. Asking advice... it's ok, but he still has to do the right thing.

Right now his just passing the buck on everything.

LOVED THE ARTICLE! Although, I think you should give Obama some time. I think, in the end, he will keep his word.

Mario Dem | July 7, 2009 7:47 PM

No need to vote third party. Obama will be held accountable by the Democrats who elected him in the 2012 primary. It's not just his terrible record on equal rights for which he'll have to answer, but also his perpetuation of the Bush administration's assault on the Constitution and our civil liberties. True progressives are not going to give him a free pass, but we need to start making that clear now in order to effect some real change.

"I cannot sponsor the person I love for citizenship"

THis is my situation! I live in Portugal and he lives in New York, but hey, we have vacations!!

Now serious, i think it's impressive that something like the Green Lottery happens every year for 50000 persons but then there's a big problem destroing barriers to 38000 couples that Love each other but are still separated and suffering for it!
There would be 38000 happier American citizens and 38000 possible new ones with everything to give to a country they dreamed to be part of!
I wish that would be possible today! I'm sick of this distance, this wall separating hearts!

Thanks so much for talking about it!


Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | July 8, 2009 12:46 AM

Sorry, Phil, you got taken. So did a bit over 1/3 of the electorate who voted for Obama and a bit less than 1/3 who voted for McCain.

Street hustlers will always, for a fee, tell their clients whatever they want to hear. They're happy, for a fee, to let their clients project their own feeling on them, imagining whatever they will.

Political hustlers like Clinton, Bush and Obama are different only in that hustle millions at a time and the cost is much greater. They tell you whatever you want to hear and allow you to project your own politics on them.

Your mistake, a not uncommon one, was in believing Obama or any political hustler from the Democratic (sic) or Republican party in the first place.

It was clear long before November 4th that he was hinging his campaign on pandering to bigots. He capped it off by wrecking our chances to defend SSM in California with "gawd's in the mix". And now that he's won the bigots back from Karl Rove he's not about to give them up. It’s particularly unlikely that he’ll repeal Clinton’s DADT and DOMA.

We're paying the price for that.

It was clear before the election that he'd continue the war and that he was a hand puppet of the looter rich. Clinton began the war with genocide against Iraqi children, Bush escalated it and Obama refuses to end it. Clinton championed NAFTA and deregulation, setting the stage for economic failure, Bush turned a blind eye to the looting class and Obama rewards their criminality with trillions in handouts.

We're paying the price for war and economic failure.

Part of the problem is that people think elections accomplish real change, fundamental change. If they did they'd be outlawed. Theresa Amato, in her new book Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny describes how independents and third parties are kept out of the game, denying voters any real choice. Amato was the national presidential campaign manager and in-house counsel for Ralph Nader in both 2000 and 2004 and is hardly a flaming radical. She’s a “graduate of Harvard University and NYU School of Law… the founder of the Citizen Advocacy Center in suburban Chicago and a public interest lawyer”.

Check out some of her comments at

Thanks for the guest post, Phil. I share your disappointment in the Obama administration's handling of LGBT issues so far. His term, however, is far from over and unfortunately we'll have to wait until the end of it to judge whether or not to re-elect him. :(

so you'd rather vote for the republican??????? you think you'll be better off with the other side??

Mario Dem | July 8, 2009 10:22 AM

That's a false choice. First of all, he said third party, which is definitely not the Republican party. Secondly, Obama may have to face a more progressive Democrat in the 2012 primary. History suggests Obama would have the advantage, but progressives can register their discontent by voting for a more liberal candidate in the primary. Voting Republican is never the answer. Personally, if I felt I couldn't support the Democrat, I'd just abstain from that portion of the ticket. Leaving the Democratic party isn't very pragmatic; holding the party accountable and pulling it back to the left is what we should aim to do. And there are ways to do that. Chiding gays that "Obama isn't your daddy" isn't one of them, however.

Tom Cotner | July 8, 2009 7:54 AM

Well, I agree with you in all your thoughts, but I live in Oklahoma, where the wind and the bigotry come sweeping 'cross the plain. No one has yet figured out how to stop the wind, and I strongly suspect the bigotry will always be with us, as well. I've grown used to it in my advancing years, and finally decided that the only way for me to have any influence at all is simply to cut off their money. Any time any political organization calls on me for money (and they do often, as I've given often in the past) I simply tell them that as long as DOMA and DADT are on the law books, they won't get another dime from me. Strangely, it seems to get the attention from some of them, and I'm hoping that attention will eventually trickle up. Promises are meant to be broken by politicians, after all, "broken promise" is one of the common definitions of the word "politician". That having been said, they cannot function without a continuing flow of money, and that spigot, at least from me, is now shut off.

I see that you are studying information science and advocacy, and here's a lesson for you.

Change takes time and effort. Example: Clinton's experience with DADT. Clinton tried to change anti-gay sentiment in the military with a law and got his and our noses rubbed in it. A presidential proclamation on DADT will wind up making things worse instead of better if we don't move carefully. The Law is a scalpel, not a hammer. The old workman's adage applies here: "measure twice, cut once." President Obama can't work on his own against massive resistance in the military elite and Washington, and citing general public acceptance and a Democratic super-majority does not change that.

Getting mad at Pres. Obama instead of working on getting the GLBT rank and file to talk to their legislators is understandable but not in the least helpful. If we can't convince legislators to repeal DADT or DOMA, what makes you think Pres. Obama is going to convince the military elite? You think they can't screw us over if Obama puts a magic regulation in place? As a lawyer who knows how to create loopholes, let me tell you how mistaken that is. I love Yasmin Nair's phrase: Obama's not your daddy.

As someone who has also been working on the grassroots level for a long time, and who has worked to penetrate the incredible resistance of the community to effective organizing, I think our time is better spent on getting better organized. For example, I am working with a group of 2800 people who want ENDA on Facebook, and barely over 100 are interested in meeting with their legislators in their home district. I understand and accept this political reality, and I am working to cut through the apathy. That, and not getting in a snit at President Obama, is going to get us what we need.

Mario Dem | July 8, 2009 9:37 AM

I'm so tired of this lecture. Obama's not my daddy? No, he's my president. He's not your daddy either, so why are you putting so much faith in him, assuming that he's just weilding his scalpel as opposed to avoiding these issues out of political expediency? He's a politician first and foremost; there's no reason to have blind faith that he's going to do the right thing: you can't see into his soul (or if you can, please explain to me what he's thinking continuing Bush's policy of indefinite detention and similar assaults on our civil liberties). You're reading his intentions whereas we are reading his actions and inactions. Which seems more reasonable?

Additionally, political action takes many forms, and not one of them is without worth. I do not understand why one would advocate lobbying lawmakers instead of the president. Why not both? They make the law, but he has the bully pulpit. Diaries such as this aren't whiney lamentations: they're raising awareness and spreading the word. If you want to advocate lobbying members of Congress, I think it makes sense to comment that that is very beneficial supplemental action. We can do two things at once. And while we're at it, let's make it clear that this administration is not going to get a blank check in 2012. That's just holding our elected officials accountable.

Okay, okay, sorry about the "Obama isn't your daddy" quote from Yasmin. It's just a metaphor. I'm saying to hold him accountable, but not responsible for everything.

Rick Sours | July 8, 2009 11:31 AM

Like many others, my Partner and I are extemely
disappointed with the Obama Administration; we
really expected some positive changes for the
LGBT community.

Mary Hayes | July 8, 2009 11:59 AM

"Okay, okay, sorry about the "Obama isn't your daddy" quote from Yasmin. It's just a metaphor. I'm saying to hold him accountable, but not responsible for everything."

I'm surprised this blogger hasn't gotten any worse than that -- saying you're not voting for Obama in '12 here is equivalent to saying you're in favor of marriage equality, or that you don't regard Michael Jackson as a deity.

Of course Obama isn't responsible for everything. But he's responsible to at least take a few preliminary steps to keep promises that HE made -- not Bill Clinton, not Hillary Clinton, not McCain; OBAMA made them. There's been ample time by now to produce a brief with jaw-dropping insults; it's past time for being a "fierce advocate" in some context other than a soundbite or window-dressing cocktail party.

Jillian- Some of those people may not be planning to meet with their rep becaue he or she is already supporting ENDA according to the list.
It is not always becasue they are unwilling.

And one of the things I keep pointing out is the fact that-

A-he's only six months into a four year term.

B-many white gays (predominated Hillary supporters) were criticizing him long before he even took office.

C-He came into office having to deal with a serious fiscal crisis.

D- Because Obama's critics are overwhelmingly white gays like Dan Savage, it's irritating many of the Black GLBT people you'll need to help craft a marriage equality message that works in our community.

Mario Dem | July 8, 2009 3:16 PM


A- As I mentioned above, it's not just the lack of action, but also the actions he has taken in his first six months (and long before) which many members of the lgbt community found extremely alienating.

B- Obama has been deserving of lgbt critism since long before he even won his first primary. In October of 2007 he enlisted a group of prominent homophobes (including an avowed "ex-gay") to campaign with him in South Carolina trying to drum up support in the African American community (is this news to you?); perhaps that's one of the reasons it seems much of the criticism is from Hillary supporters- she was much friendlier to us in the primaries, as were all of the other Democratic candidates; to my knowledge Obama is the only one who solicited the help of bigots.

C- There is never going to be a convenient time to fight for the equal rights of a minority population. Regardless, he won his office by campaigning that he can do multiple things at once, so that's really not much of an excuse.

D- If black lgbt members are more concerned with apologizing for Obama than fighting for equal rights, that's their problem. I don't have a whole lot of constructive comment on that front becuase I think it's absolutely absurd.

I agree that we should give Obama more time. I also think however, that your critique is correct. He certainly has a lot of promises he needs to live up to, especially as our first minority president. With the veto to overturn gay marriage now officially on the ballot in Maine and the Massachusetts lawsuit on the table, Obama is going to have to show solidarity at some point.


That was so true and so beautifully written. I agree with you 100%!

As a Federal Employee with a domestic partner, I must correct one of your statements. As UI am not an employee of the State Department, my partner is not eligible for relocation benefits.

terry lowman | July 12, 2009 10:14 PM

I think we can blame Bill Clinton for Obama's approach to LGBT issues. He got a beating for don't ask don't tell and was rendered a eunuch, politically.

Promoting his book, "My Life" on C-Span's book show, he considered DADT his biggest failure and said if he could do it over again, he would have worked on the economy, healthcare and foreign relations before touching social issues like integration of LGBT in the armed forces.

Although random things have happened that look like he won't work for us, I believe he will, when the heavy lifting of the economy and healthcare under control.

I'm not happy with his economic people--Larry Summers, the not so bright former Havard President that dissed women engineers and Geithner, who is just another stooge for Wall Street. The bailout should have gone to people, not crappy, corrupt institutions.