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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What the President Said

Posted by on Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 4:12 PM

No health benefits for gay federal employees. And DOMA is bad...

It's a day that marks a historic step towards the changes we seek, but I think we all have to acknowledge this is only one step. Among the steps we have not yet taken is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I believe it's discriminatory, I think it interferes with states' rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it.

That's cute. Earlier today the president's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked by ABC's Jake Tapper if the president "stood by" the DOMA legal brief. A legal brief that went far beyond what was required of a "defense" of the law, and a brief that could make DOMA's repeal more difficult. The Justice Departing is charged with upholding the law, Gibbs replied. Tapper pressed Gibbs: Does the president stand by the "the contents, the arguments made in that brief," particularly the comparison of "same-sex unions and incestuous ones"?

"It's the president's Justice Department," Gibbs responded. Or in a word: yes.

UPDATE: Here's the video...

Full text of president's remarks after the jump.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, today I'm proud to issue a presidential memorandum that paves the way for long-overdue progress in our nation's pursuit of equality.

Many of our government's hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants have long been denied basic rights that their colleagues enjoy for one simple reason — the people that they love are of the same sex.

Currently, for example, LGBT federal employees can't always use sick leave to care for their domestic partners or their partners' children. Their partners aren't covered under long-term care insurance. Partners of American Foreign Service officers abroad aren't treated the same way when it comes to the use of medical facilities or visitation rights in case of an emergency.

These are just some of the wrongs that we intend to right today.

In consultation with Secretary of State Clinton, as well as OPM Director John Berry, my administration has completed a long and thorough review to identify a number of areas where we can extend federal benefits to the same-sex partners of Foreign Service and executive branch government employees.

I'm requesting that Secretary Clinton and Director Berry do so where possible under existing law — and that the heads of all executive departments and agencies conduct reviews to determine where they may do the same.

Hundreds of Fortune 500 companies already offer such benefits not only because it's the right thing to do, but because they recognize that it helps them compete for and retain the best possible talent — and we need top talent serving their country right now more than ever.

Now, under current law, we cannot provide same-sex couples with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

That's why I'm proud to announce my support for the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, crucial legislation that will guarantee these rights for all federal employees.

I want to thank Representative Tammy Baldwin, who is behind me somewhere — there she is, right there — for her tireless leadership on this bill and in the broader struggle for equality. I want to thank Senator Joe Lieberman — Joe is here — as well as Susan Collins for championing this bill in the Senate; and Representative Barney Frank for his leadership on this and so many other issues — in fact, this is his second trip to the White House today. (Laughter.)

It's a day that marks a historic step towards the changes we seek, but I think we all have to acknowledge this is only one step. Among the steps we have not yet taken is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I believe it's discriminatory, I think it interferes with states' rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it.

We've got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally; to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms; and to bring about that more perfect union. I'm committed to these efforts, and I pledge to work tirelessly on behalf of these issues in the months and years to come.

Thank you very much everybody, and with that I am going to sign this executive order.

 

Comments (43) RSS

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1
Are you really this dense, Dan? He echoed repealing DOMA, idiot. Jesus, you're a fucking disgrace to the gay community.
Posted by Get a fucking clue on June 17, 2009 at 4:15 PM · Report this
2
Gibbs' response is completely reasonable. I support the right to gay marriage as much as anyone else, but it is the Justice Department's job -- and the President's in that context -- to uphold the law.

This blog called out the Bush administration for politicizing the Justice Department. Obama shouldn't politicize it either. Obama's avenue to advocate for a policy change is though the legislature (to repeal DOMA) and the military (to repeal don't ask don't tell). Leave the Justice Department alone to uphold current law like it's supposed to.
Posted by jeff98107 on June 17, 2009 at 4:19 PM · Report this
danhowes 3
To put things in perspective, it should be noted that Obama has already done more for gay rights, even with this very small step, than any American president ever, and he's not even 6 months into his presidency.
Posted by danhowes http://www.vimeo.com/danhowes on June 17, 2009 at 4:21 PM · Report this
Parker Todd 4
Dan -- you own/partially own your own paper and can provide benefits for your boyfriend. -- so why does health care matter to you?

You have an open relationship -- so why does marriage matter to you?

You think you're fighting for the rest of us? You're not. You're actually spitting out SHIT. Save for your sex column.

Just save it.
Posted by Parker Todd on June 17, 2009 at 4:25 PM · Report this
5
Thank you Dan Savage for leading the charge on holding this administration's collective feet to the fire. This type of pandering just makes this gay submarine vet's blood boil. Dan Savage you have a platform to expose this for the low ball maneuver it is. Get it done.
Posted by gregory gookins on June 17, 2009 at 4:25 PM · Report this
kim in portland 6
Indeed there does seem to be two very different ideas, Obama supports the DoJ's brief and it's contents, and he is still committed to the repeal of DOMA through the legislature. I'm going to say, that the words out of his mouth have more power than the contents of the brief, from my perspective. That repealing DOMA is still the plan.
Posted by kim in portland http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/11/fast-paced_video_provides_a_fu.html on June 17, 2009 at 4:25 PM · Report this
7
Hmmm... sounds like he's saying the current law is the issue. Time to start demanding Congress repeal DOMA.
Posted by Eleven Finger Freak on June 17, 2009 at 4:26 PM · Report this
8
More slippery than Clinton ever was.
Posted by Dan in Lynnwood on June 17, 2009 at 4:28 PM · Report this
Loveschild 9
3 You've got it. DOMA and DADT are not things that can be repealed only through an executive order, that's why I've never understood the attacks.
Posted by Loveschild http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/articles/responding_to_haiti_earthquake/ on June 17, 2009 at 4:31 PM · Report this
Baconcat 10
This is what Kennedy did in advance of the CRA of 1964, abridged, after basically dicking around black america ("thanks for your votes and time, but I can't do anything to offend white people!!!!1"). His speech is a classic, although a bit wordy. It happened 46 years and 5 days ago tonight.

What happened next is about 4 or so days later, Kennedy brought in a standing but motionless bill and put his seal on it, introducing it personally on the 19th (exactly a week after his speech) which makes it a walk through committees and generally through Congress itself. Congressmen saw it as Kennedy's liability and decided that they wanted to end conversation as soon as possible and ended up passing it later, in spite of, ah, ugliness that happened in the interim.

Everyone needs to get on the phone and e-mail to their senators and congressmen NOW. We don't need history-dumb plodding and poutrage right now, we need immediate action. If we can get the President to push this onto the floor as soon as possible, it's quite likely that we can get this voted and passed by the time healthcare re-emerges post-recess in July.

Sometimes, politicians send up flares when they're stuck in the morass of bureaucracy and their own political fears. Like Kennedy before him, Obama seems to be doing the same.
Posted by Baconcat on June 17, 2009 at 4:32 PM · Report this
Loveschild 11
4 Great point.
Posted by Loveschild http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/articles/responding_to_haiti_earthquake/ on June 17, 2009 at 4:33 PM · Report this
Enigma 12
@10 That's exactly why we need to keep pushing. And that's why I'm gonna stand outside the White House from July 1-4 and hope other follow me.
protestforhumanrights.com
Posted by Enigma http://washingtonunitedformarriage.org/ on June 17, 2009 at 4:38 PM · Report this
13
Parker Todd
Universal access to health care matters, or should matter, to everyone regardless of their ability to receive it under the current set up.
Gay marriage is a civil rights issue that affects everyone in this country. If you can't see that, read more, perhaps starting with the United States Constitution.
Posted by gregory gookins on June 17, 2009 at 4:38 PM · Report this
14
Hey #3...

Obama didn't do anything magical today. The problem, as one blogger writes, is that federal agencies already *extend* these (extremely limited) benefits, and in fact, are already providing the benefits. So what is President Obama actually giving us? Nothing that hasn't already been done during the Clinton administration (AKA the *DOMA* administration):

"During the Clinton administration -- guidance was requested about whether sick leave could be used to take care of same-sex partners and/children. The answer came back that a federal employee could use their sick leave to take care of, attend doctor appointments, or even attend funerals for anyone who had the "close approximation of family". This was a guidance memo -- not policy -- but it has been available since the mid 1990's. The reason I know this is that I have worked for a DOD Agency for 23 years and even DOD allowed me to take sick leave to care for my partner and my non-bio child."

What a bunch of nothing.
Posted by Please excuse yourself from Capitol Hill on June 17, 2009 at 4:41 PM · Report this
MirrorMan 15
Yes, LovesChild and Parker Todd, every gay relationship is exactly like Dan's, and as such we all can just extend the benefits and screw who we want.

Man, if idiocy was a disease, bith of you would be dead by now.

(Which, in and of itself, would not be a bad thing)
Posted by MirrorMan on June 17, 2009 at 4:42 PM · Report this
16
It certainly looks like somebody went cowboy at the Justice Department. Gibbs can't say, "We're actually fighting with each other, and plan to discipline the guy who wrote that stuff about DOMA." But that appears to be what is happening. Obama's statement is the clearest possible way for him to say that he actually disagrees with what was said. Still, now he needs to do something about actually repealing DOMA.
Posted by SouthSeattle on June 17, 2009 at 4:45 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 17
@1 for the 70 pct of America crying for a single-payer national health care plan win.

Dan for the get over it Epic Fail.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on June 17, 2009 at 4:46 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 18
oh, i don't mean danhawes, I mean Dan S.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on June 17, 2009 at 4:47 PM · Report this
19
@12

Good for you! In doing that, you're doing a hell of a lot more to affect change than any one of Dan Savage's hissy fit Slog rants.

Doers make things happen, not whiners and finger-pointers.
Posted by Confluence on June 17, 2009 at 4:47 PM · Report this
Original Andrew 20
Ugh, it's the “he’s just upholding the law” defense.

Jeebus, ‘murrikins like to think of themselves romantically as revolutionaries and rebels, but we really are a sad, jello-brained, authoritarian culture.

The DOJ is under no obligation to argue in favor of laws the administration considers to be unconstitutional. Try the Googles.
Posted by Original Andrew on June 17, 2009 at 4:51 PM · Report this
Baconcat 21
@12: Did you e-mail your senators and rep? I e-mailed Cantwell and Murray and referenced Kennedy's speech and the CRA64.

Action NOW!
Posted by Baconcat on June 17, 2009 at 4:51 PM · Report this
thegeneral 22
Keep the heat on Dan. Those of us who wish to be treated as an equal citizen in the eyes of the law NOW, not "years from now," support you.

@5 may well be correct about Obama's unspoken plans, but it's important to treat this as a priority and not something he can get to when it's convenient for him politically.

@13 is right on.
Posted by thegeneral on June 17, 2009 at 4:57 PM · Report this
23
@5: Those aren't two contradictory ideas. It's entirely possible to both believe that the DoJ is obligated to defend laws that are not facially unconstitutional, while nonetheless believing that DOMA is unconstitutional and should be repealed.
Posted by AnonymousCoward on June 17, 2009 at 5:12 PM · Report this
Mark in Colorado 24
I'll be contacting both my U.S. Senators and informing them that if they want my vote next time, they need to stand against single-payer national health care.

Thanks Will for your inspiration!
Posted by Mark in Colorado on June 17, 2009 at 5:13 PM · Report this
25
24: You're a putz. Sorry, just had to say it.
Posted by Jizz-a-belle on June 17, 2009 at 5:26 PM · Report this
26
24: You're a putz. Sorry, just had to say it.
Posted by Jizz-a-belle on June 17, 2009 at 5:26 PM · Report this
Mark in Colorado 27
Done. I just submitted online written messages to both my U.S. Senators imploring them to stand AGAINST single-payer national health care.

Thanks again Will in Seattle!!!
Posted by Mark in Colorado on June 17, 2009 at 5:42 PM · Report this
28
Maybe this comment missed its proper train, but anyways: a couple days ago Dan mentioned the DOJ's politicization at the hands of the Clinton admin, and the 3 (Republican!!!!) other administrations since 1980 (which predates not only my date of birth but, i'm guessing, a whole lot of other commenters and readers of Dan's).

But why is that proof that Obama is hedging or skirting the issue by claiming that the DOJ's mission is beyond the reach of the WH? That previous admin's were willing to go where his isn't doesn't mean he's being coy. It means maybe his admin has more respect for the rule of law. He was a friggin' constitutional law professor at the U of Chicago, and editor of the Harvard Law review. Thus has more pre-presidential experience with the courts, and hence respect for/understanding of them, than all 4 of his predecessors combined.

To reiterate: This means you can't judge Obama's level of respect for what the rules of the game are in the DOJ by the standards of his predecessors.
Posted by Montdidier on June 17, 2009 at 5:43 PM · Report this
Mark in Colorado 29
@25 and @26
Jizz-a-belle,
Don't be sorry. I'm not offended one bit.
The first amendment is a wonderful thing.
Posted by Mark in Colorado on June 17, 2009 at 5:45 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 30
Prediction:

At the end of Obama's first (and with luck last) term gay people will not have their rights, there will be no single payer health care plan, and we will still be in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on June 17, 2009 at 5:53 PM · Report this
seandr 31
The important thing is that the unemployed spouses of gay federal employees have health benefits.

As for the millions of Americans without health insurance who do not fit in this category? Who cares, they're not gay.
Posted by seandr on June 17, 2009 at 5:57 PM · Report this
32
Dan,

Good for you for continuing to hold the Obama and his administration to their promises. The extension of ALL benefits accorded to the opposite sex spouses of federal employees to same sex partners is a very important step that needs to happen NOW.

That said, your continued repetition of this claim that the DOJ brief filed last week "equated same sex marriages to incestuous ones" is bullshit. It's either a deliberate misreading of the brief or an ignorant misunderstanding of the legal arguments in it. Either way, it's wrong, and it makes you look like you are seeking a source of false outrage.

Here's the passage from the brief (apologies for the lengthy "legalese"):

And the courts have widely held that certain marriages performed elsewhere need not be given effect, because they conflicted with the public policy of the forum. See, e.g., Catalano v. Catalano, 170 A.2d 726, 728-29 (Conn. 1961) (marriage of uncle to niece, "though valid in Italy under its laws, was not valid in Connecticut because it contravened the public policy of th[at] state"); Wilkins v. Zelichowski, 140 A.2d 65, 67-68 (N.J. 1958) (marriage of 16-year-old female held invalid in New Jersey, regardless of validity in Indiana where performed, in light of N.J. policy reflected in statute permitting adult female to secure annulment of her underage marriage); In re Mortenson's Estate, 316 P.2d 1106 (Ariz. 1957) (marriage of first cousins held invalid in Arizona, though lawfully performed in New Mexico, given Arizona policy reflected in statute declaring such marriages "prohibited and void").

So, does this passage "compare same-sex marriages" to the marriage of an uncle to a niece, or of first cousins, or of sixteen year olds? Yes, it does. It compares them on the basis that some jurisdictions approve those marriages and others do not. IN THAT RESPECT, THEY ARE ALIKE. Not in all respects. Nowhere in the brief does the government make any kind of "same sex marriages are morally wrong, like incestuous ones" argument.

This is an argument in a 35 page legal brief that says: "some marriages are valid in some places and not others." Reading it as more is taking it grossly out of context and takes away from, rather than adding to, your credibility. Stop it. Please.
More...
Posted by Morrolan on June 17, 2009 at 6:17 PM · Report this
Mark in Colorado 33
@31 seandr
I believe you are incorrect. The memo that Fiercy signed today does not include healthcare benefits. Only an act of Congress could make that possible.
Posted by Mark in Colorado on June 17, 2009 at 6:22 PM · Report this
34
It doesn't sound like Dan is going to be satisfied until Obama personally takes it up the butt. Christ, queen-o-rama this week...
Posted by The CHZA on June 17, 2009 at 6:31 PM · Report this
35
@32 That's exactly what Barney Frank is saying. He retracted his earlier criticism, and said the DoJ brief doesn't compare gay marriage to incest, but makes a narrow and appropriate legal argument.
Posted by Kevin Erickson on June 17, 2009 at 6:37 PM · Report this
36
The fact that these cases were included in the DOJ brief was a matter of choice, not necessity. They did not have to be included. The administration did not have to make this defense.
Posted by gregory gookins on June 17, 2009 at 6:56 PM · Report this
Carollani 37
Dan, these haters can keep telling you that you're crazy and don't speak for gay people and bla bla bla, but I think you're spot-on with your coverage of this news. Obama used gay talking points to get gay votes and gay money, but now when he has the bully pulpit and the power of the presidency he refuses to follow-up on the promises he made to gay people when he was campaigning. Until he does something that gives (lasting) equal rights (to all) gay people he is undeserved of our support as gay people.
Posted by Carollani http://twitter.com/carollani on June 17, 2009 at 7:05 PM · Report this
38
Dan you're doing good work. Keep it up!

For everyone saying "Look! Obama's all for gay rights! Look at what he's saying now!" a couple points.

First, notice that the President had ZERO to say on the subject and had taken ZERO action until people like Dan started getting pissed off and the fundraising threatened to dry up. If that's not an endorsement of everything Dan's been doing here (along with plenty of others), I don't know what is.

Second, merely saying a few pretty words in a press conference does nothing to get legislation pushed through Congress. Bills have to be introduced, co-sponsored collected, votes corralled, compromises made and so forth. It takes some effort and some of that will have to come from the White House (although there's no reason why people like Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin can't do a lot of the heavy lifting). It also means that the House and Senate leadership has to be on board and convinced to make this a priority.

Third, yes, a lot of the pushing has to come from us. But part of that pushing is identifying who in government are our real friends (i.e. those that take action), who is not (i.e. those who claim to support LGBT rights and take the money and run), and who are our outright enemies. Yes, we have to call our representatives. We also have to be smarter about who we give our money to. Why reward the DNC when there are plenty of conservative Democrats who won't stand by us? We then lose say over who gets help and who doesn't. Isn't it better to target our funding to those who will help us?

There are a lot of Pride celebrations happening this month. It's time that this community forgot about begging for help from politicians. Most will do the absolute bare minimum to keep the money and votes flowing. So take advantage of the season to get out there and volunteer with a group or even work on your own to MAKE them enact our agenda. Raise money and tell the politicians that they only get it if they actively support equality. Collect signatures and show them how many people, straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, whatever support equality. Quit relying on Obama to make everything right and get out there and do it yourself.
More...
Posted by Corydon on June 17, 2009 at 7:28 PM · Report this
39
Nice way to confuse the issue at hand, in case nobody noticed -- starting out calling it a presidential memorandum and finishing off by calling it an executive order. What is it, in fact -- one, or the other? That makes a difference, Mr. O, and you're well aware of it.
Posted by Calpete on June 17, 2009 at 7:37 PM · Report this
40
@32 Morrolan,
I agree with you. And, more importantly, your reading of the passage is accurate. Those cases are cited as authority for a legal argument regarding state autonomy on a state issue, not to draw a moral comparison.

It's possible that those particular cases were slightly more desirable as authority because of their facts, selected as a deliberate stroke of advocacy. But, there's undoubtedly a limited variety of types of marriage where state recognition differed and the matter was litigated. And, by nature of the issue, those cases had to involve marriages that garnered less than universal acceptance.

One last thing: Congress is well within its authority to repeal DOMA--as a separation of powers issue, this brief does not make it more difficult for Congress to legislate.
Posted by California on June 17, 2009 at 9:01 PM · Report this
41
@32 Morrolan,
I agree with you. And, more importantly, your reading of the passage is accurate. Those cases are cited as authority for a legal argument regarding state autonomy on a state issue, not to draw a moral comparison.

It's possible that those particular cases were slightly more desirable as authority because of their facts, selected as a deliberate stroke of advocacy. But, there's undoubtedly a limited variety of types of marriage where state recognition differed and the matter was litigated. And, by nature of the issue, those cases had to involve marriages that garnered less than universal acceptance.

One last thing: Congress is well within its authority to repeal DOMA--as a separation of powers issue, this brief does not make it more difficult for Congress to legislate.
Posted by California on June 17, 2009 at 9:01 PM · Report this
42
@28 Yes he has great belief in the rule of law. That's why he's willing to be in charge of indefinite detention without legal recourse. He's a republican president. The best thing he's done in convince me there really isn't much difference between the parties.
Posted by Mugwumpt on June 17, 2009 at 9:29 PM · Report this
43
@27 And thank YOU for the inspiration, Mark. I just submitted the same to my two Senators. After Obama's little charade today, as far as as I'm concerned, the 40 million who are currently uninsured can suck-a-d*ck.
Posted by Dan in Lynnwood WA on June 17, 2009 at 10:18 PM · Report this

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