On last night's Countdown on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann took President Barack Obama to task for the overwhelming slow-footery he's displayed on his campaign promises to the gay community. Olbermann noted right off the top that on the campaign trail, Obama said, "When it comes to Federal rights, the over 1,100 rights that are not being given to same-sex couples, I think that it's unacceptable and as President of the United States, I am going to fight hard to make sure those rights are available." Since then, there's been precious little "fighting hard," and no significant remedy offered to close this gap.
Until yesterday, of course, when the White House made a to-do about handing out a "handful" of rights to same-sex partners of federal employees -- a "pretty please maybe" memorandum instead of an executive order. Olbermann pointed out where all the "supplies are limited, void where prohibited, your mileage may vary" language lay. Employees of the U.S. Armed Services, for example, need not apply. Oh, and social security and health care benefits -- still just a heterosexual thing! And the Defense of Marriage Act? The administration's gone to the wall to keep that the law of the land as well.
I have read speculation that Obama's unwillingness to wade more forthrightly into the arena of gay rights stems from a sense of priority, that the complexity of health care reform and the battles that it is sure to engender loom so largely, that the administration cannot afford to expend any political capital on another hot-button issue, for fear of muddying the waters or drawing support away from their health care goals. In the first place: Man, this had better be some first-rate gollydarned health care we're getting from the White House! But in the second place, if, in fact, the White House sees this health care reform fight as one that needs to be borne on the back of same-sex marriage rights, they'd better recognize that they're adding to the debt they owe the LGBT community.
How does Solomonese see the situation? On Countdown, he seemed to have cause for encouragement, praising the incremental step taken and acknowledging that the vagaries of legislation stood in the way of Obama taking further, direct action without the assistance of Congress. Nevertheless, he was willing to define the sort of outcome he was looking for from the president:
"I think that the only thing that will really satisfy me and members of the community in the aftermath of that -- not the -- not just the defense but obviously the language in that defense, the language that to my way of thinking went way over the line. I think the only thing that is really going to appease people in the aftermath of that is overturning DOMA, overturning the two aspects of DOMA, the ability to move marriage from state to state and the ability to get federal benefits that go along with marriage."