No Change for Obama

LGBT activists launch a boycott of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

Gemma Baltazar

People rest during a protest October 11, 2009 in Washington, DC. Activists gathered in DC to push President Barack Obama's administration and the U.S. Congress to live up to promises to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to advance civil rights. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

One year ago, many mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­ni­ty, their fam­i­lies and friends were over­joyed at Barack Obama’s elec­tion. Today mem­bers of that same com­mu­ni­ty find their fer­vor has faded.

On Novem­ber 9, AMER­I­CA­blog edi­tors John Aravo­sis and Joe Sud­bay launched a boy­cott of Oba­ma and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. Those who sign their online peti­tion take a pledge to with­hold all dona­tions to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee and Orga­niz­ing for Amer­i­ca until the Employ­ment Non-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act is passed, and both Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA) are repealed – all actions that Oba­ma promised to ful­fill as pres­i­dent. Dur­ing the 2008 pri­maries, AMER­I­CA­blog was an ear­ly sup­port­er of Oba­ma, rais­ing near­ly $50,000 for him as a candidate. 

AMER­I­CA­blog out­lines con­crete exam­ples of the pres­i­dent not being the fierce advo­cate” for the civ­il rights of gay and les­bian Amer­i­cans that he had promised to be. While an opti­mistic speech to the Human Rights Cam­paign and the sign­ing into law of the Hate Crime Bill on Octo­ber 28, were steps for­ward, Oba­ma failed to oppose anti-gay leg­is­la­tion in both Maine and Wash­ing­ton state. 

I think at this point it’s become fair­ly clear to most every­one that the pres­i­dent and the Democ­rats over­all get a rather seri­ous case of gay pan­ic when­ev­er it comes time to act on any giv­en gay 

issue,” Aravo­sis told In These Times. We kept hear­ing from more and more read­ers, and friends, both gay and straight, who asked why any of us should be giv­ing anoth­er dime to Democ­rats, with the way they’ve been treat­ing us.”

While some crit­ics may preach the impor­tance of remain­ing patient, Aravo­sis cites the DOMA scan­dal that occurred in June – when both the White House and the Depart­ment of Jus­tice upheld the def­i­n­i­tion of mar­riage as a legal union between a man and a woman – to high­light the impor­tance of tak­ing action. If we pres­sure the pres­i­dent to keep his promis­es, we lose noth­ing. If we wait to see if he real­ly is going to keep his promis­es, and he doesn’t, it will be too late to do a damn thing about it,” Aravo­sis says. 

Aravo­sis says that when DNC Trea­sur­er Andy Tobias post­ed com­ments on the blog express­ing his dis­con­tent with the cam­paign, it was a sure­fire sign that we got the DNC’s attention.” 

In its state­ment on the issue, the Human Rights Cam­paign (HRC) says, Indi­vid­ual donors should always make their own care­ful assess­ments of how to spend lim­it­ed polit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions. We all need to focus on the leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties iden­ti­fied by AMER­I­CA­blog and with what­ev­er tac­tic indi­vid­u­als decide to employ, the ulti­mate objec­tive needs to be secur­ing the votes we need to move our leg­isla­tive agen­da forward.” 

Aravo­sis thinks HRC did a good job of avoid­ing crit­i­cism of the effort, and even some­what rein­forc­ing the campaign’s mes­sage. At some point, HRC needs to real­ize that they’re in the driver’s seat,” Aravo­sis says. The admin­is­tra­tion needs HRC far more than HRC needs the administration.” 

To date, almost 6,000 peo­ple have signed the petition. 

Damn right we think it’s the most effec­tive polit­i­cal strat­e­gy we could have employed. Car­rots alone get you nowhere in Wash­ing­ton. Some­times you need a good stick too.” 


Find out more about Take the Pledge, Don’t Ask, Don’t Give

Gem­ma Bal­tazar is a fall 2009 In These Times edi­to­r­i­al intern and a stu­dent at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty’s Medill School of Journalism.
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