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Emma Ruby-Sachs Headshot

An LGBT Report Card for Obama's First 100 Days

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Standing in Grant Park, President-elect Barack Obama told the crowd of thousands that his presidency was "...the answer spoken by young, old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled."

Hearing that acknowledgment, the open recognition of LGBT voters - 70% of whom supported Obama - was thrilling. It also set high hopes for the new year when the new President would finally take office.

The inaugural train asked sixteen guests to accompany the President to his opening day ceremony and one of those chosen was a lesbian organizer from Cleveland. Openly gay representative Tammy Baldwin was selected as an honorary co-chair for the inauguration and Reverend Lowry, a supporter of equal rights for LGBT people, was asked to give the benediction at the inaugural ceremony.

Reverend Rick Warren, decried for his anti-gay sentiments, was given a White House makeover: taking trips to gay neighborhoods, backtracking on homophobic statements and recently stating that he was "oblivious" to the Iowa gay marriage ruling.

Even Easter at the white house included LGBT families specifically invited to participate in the Easter Egg Roll.

If Barack Obama were a student in a high school civics class, he'd be getting a pretty good grade for class participation. Compared to the rows of sullen, silent Presidents behind him, he would look like a gay rights brown-noser.

But 70% of LGBT voters came out in support of Barack Obama because they expected that the support for equal rights expressed on the campaign trail would result in action for LGBT people once Obama was in office.

And when it comes to actual change in the lives of LGBT people, nothing has been done. Obama has failed to hand in any of his assignments.

The gay rights agenda is clear: pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act that adds LGBT Americans to the list of protected groups in existing hate crime legislation; pass the United American Families Act that permits committed LGBT couples to sponsor their foreign partners into the country; repeal the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples even if they are married; pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would protect employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; and repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, a policy that forces many service members to forego relationships or live part of their lives in secret in order to avoid discharge from the military.

This is just the fight for legal equality. It says nothing of funding and support for programs that target at-risk youth (1 in 3 gay youths have attempted suicide), public awareness campaigns that promote tolerance and social services - specifically health services - that cater to the LGBT community.

Obama has permitted Secretary Gates to indicate that repealing DADT may never happen. He has merely pledged to sign ENDA and the hate crimes bill, but has done nothing to actively campaign for them. And repealing DOMA isn't even on the radar.

Nancy Pelosi tells us that Congress, and the President, have their hands full with, "health care, energy and the issues related to the economy." And it's true that LGBT people are also citizens who care about the same things most Americans care about: health care coverage, good jobs, a healthy planet.

But we expect the government to be able to multi-task.

We reject the notion that Obama's political power and political capital are all used up by getting this country in basic working order.

If we had ranked political problems, like Pelosi urges us to, equality gains, past, present and future, would never have been achieved. She is effectively telling the LGBT community, create a national crisis or good luck getting basic rights.

Well, individual LGBT citizens are facing a crisis. They are being fired from jobs so hard to come by already because of their sexual orientation. They are paying huge amounts more in taxes than their straight counterparts despite the fact that everyone is scrimping and saving to make it through the economic downturn. They are losing their life partners to deportation because immigration rights don't extend to families with two parents of the same-sex.

Sure, these are tough times, but being an LGBT American puts a magnifying glass on your life. Economic problems, social problems, problems with access to social services, are all compounded by the lack of legal equality.

Obama has been ignoring this reality.

In his own words, the struggle for LGBT rights is "about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect." He has an obligation to put that promise of equality on his immediate political agenda.

We have an obligation to make enough noise, raise enough money and put enough pressure on Congress to ensure that Obama's overall grade on LGBT rights becomes a sparkling "A".

Class Participation (30%): B+
Class Assignments (70%): F
Overall Grade: D -

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