03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama and LGBT Rights: A Year Since Election Day


Almost exactly a year ago, I was standing in a small house in Bloomington, Indiana receiving volunteers for Obama's get out the vote effort on election day. By the evening, I would be in Grant Park in Chicago, listening to a Presidential acceptance speech that actually mentioned gays and lesbians.

The gay hope swelled.

But soon, the hope-over began: Obama extended an invitation to Rick Warren, the reality of the Proposition 8 loss settled in and the great political machine trudged onwards doling out a few successes and a lot of disappointments.

In his first year, Obama has done very little for LGBT Americans.

He contributed to the passage of an inclusive hate crimes bill and finished a process started by George Bush to end the travel ban on HIV-positive visitors. As marriage controversy erupted around the country, Obama has stayed clearly out of the debate. He has made no move on Don't Ask Don't Tell, no move on the Defense of Marriage Act and, despite one speech at a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser, he has made it clear that LGBT issues are not a priority for his administration.

But today, looking back on a year of LGBT rights activism under the Obama umbrella, I wonder just how much we have done to make LGBT rights a priority for Americans.

The hope-over has seriously taken the wind out of our metaphorical sails and, most importantly, out of our wallets.

Compared to the national effort to step up fundraising in California just weeks before the Proposition 8 vote, Maine's fundraising against Proposition 1 has come almost exclusively from in-state.

This, for a vote that might be the first LGBT ballot win in the country.

The Human Rights Campaign has been struggling since early this year to meet fundraising goals, even attempting to negotiate with its employees for lower pay and decreased benefits. Their role as the largest fundraising force in LGBT politics means that trouble in the HRC leads to trouble for all gay rights organizations.

I know it's a recession.

But if we refuse to accept the political claim that the economic crisis and the war in Afghanistan can push LGBT rights completely from the Presidential agenda, then we cannot accept that our own financial insecurity should push LGBT rights from our personal economic agenda.

It's time to give money. And we need to do it quickly.

Tonight will be a lot like a year ago for many of us: glued to televisions and computer screens waiting for polling numbers to roll in. If the fundraising data is a fair indicator, we will be celebrating at the end of it all again.

But as we look back on the otherwise difficult year since Obama's election, let's remember that, with enough commitment, enough financial backing, the future could look a lot more like this battle in Maine, and a lot less like the painful hope-over of the Presidential election.

So, one year after the election, what do you think Candidate Obama would think of President Obama? Tweet your response (our Twitter hashtag is #OneYearLater), or post it in the comments section.