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Jennifer Vanasco

Jennifer Vanasco

Posted: June 3, 2009 09:29 AM

Where was Obama on Ill. civil unions?


The Pantagraph reports that Illinois' civil unions bill, after passing a state House committee, was left to languish at the end of the session.

The bill is still alive, if barely: it can be passed anytime in the next two years.

It doesn't really surprise me that the bill hasn't moved this year. Despite neighboring Iowa's fantastic move to full marriage equality, Illinois' state legislature had other things to worry about, thanks to the corruption scandal surrounding Rod Blagojevich.

But let's pause for a moment to consider this: Illinois is Obama's home state. Obama has said - emphatically - that he is for civil unions, not marriage. And that he wants equal legal rights for gay and lesbian couples.

Why didn't Obama lobby for the bill?

Why didn't he say in a speech something like: "My own great state of Illinois is working now to further the equal rights of gay couples. I hope they pass the current civil unions bill."

Why didn't he call his former friends in the legislature, where he was a state senator, after all, and encourage them to do the right thing?

If he's not for equal marriage - and he's not (he prefers gays and lesbians to have "separate but equal" status instead) - why isn't he trumpeting the recent passage of domestic partnerships in Nevada, or partnerships in Washington state?

Easy. It's the same reason he hasn't moved on the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Don't Ask, Don't Tell military ban (which the majority of Americans support) and why he likely won't issue a supportive statement on the Uniting American Families Act that's hitting Congress today.

Gays and lesbians are not his priority. Which is why the only "accomplishment" his administration could claim in proclaiming the White House's support for Gay Pride month was this:

"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."

Except - ooops - the Advocate reports that this isn't true. President Clinton nominated Roberta Achtenberg as Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and Bruce Lehman as Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, both within his first hundred days.

The White House's response?

"President Obama remains the first president to have openly LGBT candidates confirmed by the Senate during the first 100 days of an Administration."

OH, so he had a friendly Congress, so he was also able to get them confirmed quickly.

Call me crazy, but that doesn't seem like "fierce" advocacy to me. And his silence on our issues means that the people of Illinois will need to keep waiting.


Jennifer Vanasco is editor in chief of
365gay.com.