Obama Orders More Same-Sex Partner Benefits. When Can We Like Him Again?

Today, President Changey McChangerson Barack Obama ordered executive-branch agencies to extend the benefits offered to opposite-sex partners of federal workers to same-sex partners as well.

“That process has now concluded, and I am proud to announce that earlier today, I signed a memorandum that requires executive agencies to take immediate action to extend to the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees a number of meaningful benefits, from family assistance services to hardship transfers to relocation expenses.”

Firstly, totally jealous of all those people with jobs. Secondly, I feel like he’s been paying us a lot of attention this week, and I haven’t necessarily disagreed with his response to hecklers regarding DADT either. What I’m saying is: I’m really starting to dig this guy again. Like, FULL ON.

Am I being too polite? Should I be angrier like Queerty and Dan Choi? Even Pam Spaulding, who I like so much I often just copy her point of view, says of today’s order, “it’s a small step, not a lasting accomplishment. This memorandum as it stands is only good for the duration of his presidency.”

So, maybe I’m settling for less than I should. But maybe I just think there are other bigger problems getting in the way of my life goals besides my relationship with Barack Obama. For example —

Massive Mormon Sidenote

I just saw 8: The Mormon Proposition, which you MUST SEE when it comes out June 18 in theaters or pre-order for its July retail release, and I have a lot of feelings after seeing it which I will withhold until you’ve had a chance to also see it.

In the meantime I feel there are only two possible things to do:

1. Create a new Bible for Autostraddle (“The Book of Autostraddle”) and brainwash all of you into giving us all your money, because apparently that’s all it takes to RADICALLY CHANGE THE LIVES OF TONS OF PEOPLE ON A MASSIVE SCALE. Then we could make OUR agenda King! This really strategic brainwashing will prey on your fears of an unpleasant afterlife, death, etc.

2. Oh wait JK, even though it would be for a good cause, we realized that we have souls, and also no time to write a Book of Autostraddle, so therefore, we cannot pursue “1.” Instead we must put our energy into exposing and destroying the Mormon Church’s frightening ability to influence state and federal law with seemingly endless financial resources. Perhaps a Gaga/Adam Lambert concert on the lawn of the Latter-Day-Saints Headquarters, with lots of gay dancing? (Also, this one time this Mormon company f*cked with our website.)

Here’s the trailer for the documentary:

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Anyhow Back to Obama And Whether We’re Still Supposed to Hate.Him.

Do I sound like I’m in one of those terrible relationships where I confuse temporary adjustments/selective caring with long-term growth & evolution? When you tell your friends that she’s changed, and they sort of give you a “Really Papi?” look? You know, and then you’re rambling: “I know that she’s always been really disrespectful of my feelings and was at Choice C*nts making out with that bitchy girl butttttt she sent me chocolate-covered flower-shaped melons in a swan-shaped bowl at work today, which is actually a private joke between us, long story lol, and also last week she was totally on time, so I think she’s changing right? Oh also she didn’t mean it when she said our relationship was like incest.” Are we acting like that?

I feel like he’s doing stuff, right? I mean he’s complemented us like every week. Look at this note he left in my locker (!!!!!):

I know… he hasn’t moved quickly enough in several areas and could be doing more than he has been for DADT.  Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good line or a well-crafted sentence followed by a deliciously pregnant pause — or maybe I just realize how busy he’s been with stuff like the economy crashing and health care and feel grateful he’s carving out any time for me at all. (I know, I know, that might be a personal issue.)

I always liked Obama, you know. I liked him from the get-go. Also, on Election Day 2008, my body torpedoed through an IKEA cabinet I was standing on and my leg got snagged on a series of nails, and now every time I look at the giant scar that canvasses the entire length of my shin, I think of Obama’s victory and our party in Harlem that night. I think of how much hope we had! I had so much hope, in fact, that I ran around with a bloody leg all night, refusing medical care. That’s how much I fucking loved this man.

I want to like him. He’s literally a part of my skin now after all.

Also, I think he’s funny! I like that he has a sense of humor. I mean really, when he makes a joke, I really feel like he gets me. You know? It’s this thing we have.

I really, really, want to like him.

Our Courtship with Obama: A Retrospective

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Before I go back to the beginning, let me briefly mention last week, because it was such a big step for us: Last week the progress on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a big step. And then the Senate Committee and House Approved the DADT Compromise. But it was a compromise, and Dan Choi still says it ain’t good enouge. The Courage Campaign, however, called DADT “a done deal.”

I know Dan’s right in many areas. And I really have always liked him too. But also, isn’t Obama soooooo much better than our last president?

Relationship Recap:

[Sidenote: A full rundown of Obama’s statements & actions on LGBT issues can be found at ontheissues.com.]

When we first got together, Obama said he’d repeal DOMA. In 2008, he wouldn’t outright support same-sex marriage but he called the measure to repeal Prop 8 “divisive and discriminatory” and congratulated “all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks,” which sounded pretty #yaygay to me.

Obama opposed DOMA when he ran for Senate.

However, in June 2009, the Department of Justice issued a brief defending the constitutionality of DOMA, which made us all feel really rotten.  It seemed like a reversal by his administration.

However HOWEVER in April 2009 The Guardian UK had already informed us that Obama is ushering in a “quiet gay revolution“. A-ha! Of course it’s been happening all this time, it’s just been really quiet! Like amber waves of grain, sleeping bunnies, etc. Hard to get etc.

In August 2009, Obama Finally Came Out Against DOMA, filing court papers claiming a federal marriage law discriminates against gays, even as government lawyers continued to defend it.

In September 2009, we totally freaked out after reading a really scary story in New York Magazine about the Tea Party movement and other anti-Obama people and, in our post titled “Look These Anti-Obama Loonies in the Eye and Tell Me How Obama Could Possibly Find Gay Marriage Attractive,” we suggested:

“Obama’s already received 400 times more death threats than George W. Bush (that’s an actual number). A frightening fringe still truly believes, erroneously, that this country’s root is The Bible. And by “The Bible” they mean “our screwed-up interpretation of the bible.” And here we are, being impatient with him for not acting on same-sex marriage yet. Now is not the time.”

On October 11th 2009, President Obama was the keynote speaker at the annual HRC dinner on the night before the National Equality March on Washington, during which he made these two very important points:

+ “I have called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act.”
+ “I will end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ That is my commitment to you.”

(He also made a joke about opening for Lady Gaga which was amazing and so cute!)

At the time, we had this to say about his HRC speech:

Over at Queerty and the New York Times, it’s very noticed that he gave no timetable for [repealing DOMA or DADT]. Here at Autostraddle, we are just gonna feel happy & warm right now that he stood up there and said he was gonna do this stuff. Obvs this means we get to sleep in tomorrow and don’t have to march right? ‘Cause Intern Katrina just took off her pants.

Ultimately, we found that the LGBTQ community was divided, not united, by Obama’s Speech to the HRC:

Let me confess; I’m a believer. I’m a dreamer. I imagine all the people living life in peace, and for about five minutes following Obama’s speech to the HRC last week, I believed that we would. But in the days following, compelling arguments have been made on both sides. But that’s just it — people are taking sides now. Are you an Obama believer or a critic? Do you think he’s pandering to the fancy HRC so he can take our money and run, or do you think it’s meaningful that he even offered WORDS, considering the political climate of the health care debate?

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m critical for the same reasons the critics are… we can’t say “now is not the time” forever… we need radical voices to enable moderate voices.

But on the other hand, observing straight America’s reaction to last weekend’s events has hammered home an inconvenient truth: for as long as gay rights have no direct impact on the lives of heterosexuals, we must pay attention to how often The Majority hears our demands as impatient whining. To many who don’t feel personally affected by the content of Obama’s speech, the speech sounded good enough. He did, after all, acknowledge that things are not moving as quickly as we’d like. We do know this, though: we need straight votes to win our rights and I believe we can best impact change at the ground level with other voters.

On October 22, 2009, we noted that “If you ever doubted the public perception of Obama’s opinions about us, a large majority (72%) of a US News & World Report Survey group says they beleive Obama secretly supports gay marriage” and went on to ask, in light of two “small victories” that week, are Obama’s ‘small victories’ for LGBTs this week “change we can believe in?”

Those “victories” were:

1. Health and Human Services will establish the nation’s first national resource center for the support of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender senior citizens.

2. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will ensure that its programs are available to all, including LGBT people. Today’s announcement is historic, since HUD is the first federal agency so far to officially propose guidelines that would explicitly address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

[Furthermore, The Senate is ready to approve The Matthew Shepard Act, a gay-inclusive hate crimes bill.]

And then on October 28th 2009, Obama signed the new Hate Crimes bill, which extended Hate Crimes protections to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But then November 2009 came. Oh, cruel November with your November Rain, and your gay marriage vote in Maine that totally failed. And then people wondered why Obama hadn’t stepped in for Maine, and we all slit our wrists and died while the assholes relished. Then Obama pretty much moved on to health care and Christmas, as did our families.

In January 2010, an earthquake struck Haiti. We had the Olympics and then in February 2010, an earthquake struck Chile. Also; the economy, etc.

In April 2010, Obama ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a rule that would prevent hospitals from denying visitation privileges to gay & lesbian partners. We worried a little bit that this might be a way of doing away with the ugliest part of the same-sex partners situation so that denying us full rights would seem more humane, but regardless, thank the dear lord.

Not bad, right? Then the DADT stuff we already talked about?

Our Prior Relationships Include:

George W. Bush (January 20, 2001 –> January 20,2009)

In 1999 Bush opposed extending hate crime laws to protect gay people and opposed letting gays into the boy scouts. In 2000, he said he was against gay marriage but would leave it to the states. Though he hears a gay GOP group out, he sticks to “no gay adoptions.”

In the October 2000 debates, Bush says “I will be a tolerant person. I’ve been a tolerant person all my life. I just happen to believe strongly that marriage is between a man and a woman. I don’t really think it’s any of my concern how you conduct your sex life. That’s a private matter. I support equal rights but not special rights for people.”

In February of 2004, Bush calls for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. He asserts his need to protect marriage against activist judges in September 2004, and in October assures Americans not to change our views on the sanctity of marriage.

In February 2005, George W. Bush introduced a constitutional amendment to protect marriage.

+

Bill Clinton (January 20, 1993–> January 20, 2001):

In 1991, Bill was asked if he would stand by his pledge to let gays serve openly in the military. Not really thinking it was a big deal, he said yeah and then got in trouble for that one later. In 1993, he created the order that would become DADT, changing existing policy to allow homosexuals into the military. (His gay supporters had raised $3.5 million for him soooo he owed ’em).

Clinton supported the Supreme Court’s decision to reinforce the protections offered by the Americans With Disabilities Act for Americans living with HIV and AIDS. He was also the first President to appoint openly homogays and lesbianisms all up in the government, including positions requiring Senate confirmation.

In September of 1996, when everyone thought same-sex marriage was about to pass in Hawaii, Bill Clinton totally dicked us over and signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. Clinton told The Advocate, “I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered.”

In a State of the Union Address on January 19, 1999, President Clinton said, “discrimination or violence because of race or religion, ancestry or gender, disability or sexual orientation, is wrong, and it ought to be illegal. Therefore, I ask Congress to make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act the law of the land.”

Last year (2009), Clinton redacted his previous statements about same-sex marriage, and said gay people should be allowed to get married. THANKS BUDDY MAYBE YOU COULDA DONE THAT WHILE WE WERE STILL TOGETHER.

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One shouldn’t judge a relationship just on how much better it was than the last one, but it’s always important to give a little credit where credit is due.

What do you think? Can we wear our moveon.org Obama shirts again? I mean, I worked for moveon in ’08 dealing with their retail orders and some of y’all waited like eight weeks for your t-shirts, so I bet you wanna wear that shit.

I just want to like something. Because there’s all this oil all over all of these birds, and they’re gonna die, and I don’t like it.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2696 articles for us.

35 Comments

  1. Hey Riese, I know there are less comments on the political stuff (probably because its harder to win an awesome AS comment award when you’re worried about sounding intelligent enough to contribute, seriously you guys have the best comments ever) BUT I wanted to say that you’ve made politics accesible to the average joe (lesbo?).
    I’m lucky enough to live in a country with one of the most progressive constitutions in the world – SA – and AS is my main news source for US issues. Your articles on DADT, the marriage bill and everything else that affects me as a human being kick ass.

    Good job.

    • Seriously. It’s at the point now where, if a political issue comes up that I don’t understand, I pray that AS will write something about it. It’s like “Politics for Dummies”, only instead of “Dummies”, it’s “people who like it when things make sense.”

      • 2nd and 3rd this! also i give comment awards to serious comments too, aneke! i think there are just less comments on the political stuff because a lot of us feel like we’re not very articulate when we talk about it.

        • i’ve actually been happy about y’all saying we make politics accessible, do politics for dummies, etc all day long, so i thought maybe i should comment and say “hey thanks for making me happy all day long!”

    • I couldn’t agree more. This recap was great. It makes me realize that “Obama hasn’t done sh*t for us” isn’t necessarily argument. Good reminder of why I voted for him and had so much “hope”!!

      Also, I have to agree with the others about making politics more accessible for everyone. You girls rock!

  2. Great review. Totally an outsider view, first off, but I think when you look at the wider picture Obama has done this in the right way, despite all the dashed expectations. Obviously I think total equality should be a given straight away, but realistically I also think that these small victories are the only way things could have improved without a backlash that might have caused a lot more resentment from middle America. It’s ugly, but it’s reality imho.

    I think for true lasting revolution, minds have to be changed and people educated and that takes time and patient dedication. In this, I think there is a vital place for determined and vociferous activism pushing governments not to forget about the issues, but on the other hand, governance is a balancing act. You can’t push things through without laying foundations (in a legal sense and in the minds of the public) that will ensure that all the advances won’t be reversed when the next administration comes in.

    I know this doesn’t help the millions of people who are directly affected by ridiculous inequality, but I think your summary really shows this is a path to somewhere good.

    This is all jealously too, because we have yet in Ireland to get any form of civil partnership, never mind marriage, and we also have a leader who is the complete opposite of Obama and as a bonus gets paid more.

  3. when i was growing up, the sunday school teachers at my church used to give us little treats like fruit snacks and bible word search puzzles and noah’s ark connect-the-dots right before we went up and joined our parents for the remainder of mass. and as a little girl i thought those ladies were the bee’s knees because god knows i fucking loooved scooby doo fruit snacks and how nice of them to want me to have a good time in church, right? no no they just wanted to keep all of us kids quiet during communion and you know what, that pacification shit worked yes it did.

    this feels kinda like that…which i hate because i so so sooooo want to be optimistic about these things! i really really do but i can’t help but think that presidential love we might be feeling is just an attempt to appease the LGBTQ community a little bit before we gloriously flock together for the Pridetastic month of June. like “here’s an executive order and a twitter shout out, now don’t get too rowdy, go have fun with your parade and stay away from handcuffs and the white house fence and the 24 hour news networks.”

    …or maybe i’m just a Jaded Jilly this morning b/c i haven’t had coffee yet. i’m gonna go work that out.

  4. Yeah most churches still do that.
    But i don’t know even if it s half assed i d rather have the treats then be bored to death by the service: even if obama s just trying to pacify the LGBT community at least he’s taking steps and to me it doesn’t really matter why he takes them so long as he takes them.
    ps: yeah curches still do that but now it’s more craft and less food

  5. … as a former member of the Mormon church. I got a lot of feelings. Some of which I just have to put aside right now because if you can imagine being a gay person “in” the church it’s not much better “outside” when your friends ~accept~ you and your gayness… and yet still ~accept~ what the organization does to their friends and family like me.

    Sometimes, I feel like talking won’t work, yelling won’t work, *PRAYING DEFINITELY doesn’t work* and so I’ve resorted to silence.

    I don’t talk to most of them anymore! Yeay for me! You go you big gaymo… Turning your back on people because they just don’t get it still leaves a big empty gaping hole in a person. I’m just glad I don’t live in Utah.

  6. I think I fall into the minority of queers that has no problem with the way Obama’s handled things. We’re not gonna change anything by alienating the right wing nutjobs and throwing all these homopositive changes overnight.

    We have to live the example first. It’s kinda like how those women wrote those dueling cookbooks about hiding vegetables in kids’ foods? That’s exactly what Obama’s doing. He’s hiding the homoyay in the nation’s food and once the changes are rushed in without fanfare (DADT, medical and property rights, benefits) and cause absolutely no change in the right-winger’s lives at all, we can all go “OH HAY GUESS WHAT YOU’VE BEEN EATING THE GAY BROCCOLI ALL ALONG.” Or something like that.

    • I have to agree. If Obama came into office making sweeping changes and declarations, the red states would have collapsed into riots and cries of ‘dictatorship’ and then Obama would have no chance of reelection (and the crazy Mormons would probs pay Mitt Romney to run again!) As frustrating as it is, things need to be done slowly and through the proper channels. Maybe Obama is taking things a little slower than necessary, but there is also a lot of other crazy shit going on in our country right now.

      I think I’ll have some gay broccoli for lunch.

    • That second paragraph is exactly my opinion. I think I am by nature a pretty patient person. I also haven’t fought as hard / long as some have. But I feel like its coming. I live in podunk midwest. There are actual PEOPLE around me who hate Obama and have talked about how they’d like to see him killed.
      I don’t love waiting, but I can for now. These big changes have to sneak in the backdoor of people’s lives. It has to be gradual. Not just to actually happen (to get voted on and approved and whatnot) but honestly, to insure everyone’s safety.
      So, I still love him. Battles are often won a little at a time. Progress is progress, even if it isn’t the whole farm at once.

      • Agreed. I really think it’s unfair for people to assume that Obama can change everything in a year, or even four years. The fact is, he’s OBVIOUSLY trying to fight against a great deal of people who don’t believe in LGBTQ rights. Not an easy thing to do. Not to mention, Presidents don’t rule the country alone. They have Congress to deal with. Along with a sizable population. And other icky bureaucratic issues.

        It’s frustrating that we seem to be attacking the first President who is actually working pretty hard to do something for us.

  7. I’ll sort of always love him just for having the right philosophy about life, even if he doesn’t succeed in changing everything before he’s gone. He’s not perfect, but I love him, and I love that he has taken steps towards equality for our country. Don’t forget that he has experienced inequalities in his life too. You know he cares.

  8. I heart Obama! The ultimate lesbro who has the power to get some shit done. Let’s be real for a minute and honest, he’s done more for homos in the last two years than either President in the last twelve years has done. He’s making changes and change takes time. He’s taken more steps for equality and for that I like him. He keeps his word.

    On another note can there please be an Autostraddle bible and will fully donate to any such endeavor, where can I get a link?

  9. Even when I kind of don’t like him and want to cry over things, I always love him. It’s nice to have a recap of what’s been accomplished because most of the time, it really feels like nothing has happened. I feel like I know that he cares about us and that’s more than can be said for about anyone else who’s been in any sort of office.

    This was brilliant though. I love it when you talk politics to me.

  10. So I just spent three hours reading up on the Mormon involvement in Prop 8 (which I already knew a bit about) because of this post, and although I don’t think I have an articulate response yet other than disgust and confusion, I wanted to thank you for posting.

  11. To be perfectly honest, I don’t understand why I’m supposed to dislike President Obama. I’ve been with him from day one. While I’d like change to happen now, our country is way too screwed up. We have to take small steps, as much as I hate it. While WE are ready for gay marriage…our country as a whole is not quite there yet. It makes me sad, but it’s true.

    Along with the moving slowly thing, a lot of people dislike our president because this country as a whole is only slowly improving. Somehow it’s being blamed on President Obama, even though Bush was the one who messed everything up.

    I don’t have any reason to dislike Obama, especially not after everything that has happened in the past week or so. I applaud him in all his efforts and hope that, in time, people will begin to see how much good he has striven to do for this country, and the good he has already done for us.

  12. I never had quite the hard-on for Obama that so many others had; mine was always for Hillz. Eventually, reluctantly, I got on board and was out there knocking on doors in East Oakland with my wife, campaigning for him and against Prop 8. I think he began this with a great deal of naivete and at some point I, too, succumbed to it. He is a lukewarm advocate, not a fierce one, and he pledged – repeatedly – to be the latter.

    Will I take any advocate over no advocate at all? Come on, we’re GAY, we’ll take whatever the fuck we can get, but we also can’t be expected to forget how passionately promises were made to us, how insistent he was that politics didn’t have to happen the way they’d always happened because they always happened that way, and I blame myself for believing that he’d find a way, come hell or high water, to see that through.

    So far, he hasn’t. So far, he’s learned to suck it up and accept defeat – large and small – because it’s the way of the world of politics, of strategy, of “patience” and trying to please as many people as possible. When he lashes out in anger at the oil spill, for instance, it’s heartening to see the humanity there, but the immense frustration and powerlessness behind it, the grasping? Behind our President’s eyes? That doesn’t fill me with confidence and hope, it fills me with dread.

    When he’s heckled at a fundraiser in a notoriously gay city that suffered an immeasurable blow with Prop 8 that shows no sign of NOT festering anytime soon, by someone expressing displeasure with a policy that decimates the lives of people who fight and die for us, for our country, and his response is to belittle them, however cleverly or playfully, it’s still belittling, mocking, undermining. That doesn’t fill me with confidence or hope, and it certainly doesn’t inspire me to feel or act in a more patient, resolute way. It pisses me off, it stings. It stirs distrust.

    Sorry, I’m processing.

    He should strive to be more graceful, if indeed he has our best interests and our equality at heart. It is possible to be human and very strong and graceful all at once, and it is possible to be that way when the world has gone to shit around you, which it is.

    I still haven’t forgotten that our big gay section of the official white house website was removed and hyper-modified overnight with little to-do, that this time last year he was saying very similar things (the compliments and pretty words of acknowledgment), honoring Pride month, etc.

    That’s all I’ve got. I’m waiting and seeing, without hope, or hoping weakly that I’m proven horribly, horribly wrong.

    • Two thumbs up on your comment. This sums it up well: “…we also can’t be expected to forget how passionately promises were made to us, how insistent he was that politics didn’t have to happen the way they’d always happened because they always happened that way, and I blame myself for believing that he’d find a way, come hell or high water, to see that through.”

      I was one of the cynics – I voted for Hillary in the primary and was doubtful overall of what Obama could reasonably accomplish as President. I eventually voted for him in the general election but I think a lot of people now are responding to their own disillusionment rather than the President’s actual policy positions and actions.

    • I just want to join the “Hillary was my first choice” party. Because she was and I’m not kidding guys, I sobbed for hours when he got the nomination. It was a long internal battle to get me on Team Obama but eventually I did and I do love him.

      But I’m not going to lie to you… I still wish it was Hillary.

  13. i forward all of your political posts on to friends/family because i think they provide the most comprehensive viewpoint from our perspective. so good.

    i’ll keep this short and sweet. while i’ll admit i’m not the biggest obama fan for various reasons, some progress is better than no progress at all. while i’d like to press the fast forward button through all of this, i don’t think it would last for the long haul. the lesbro is starting to win me over…

  14. Just a few things –

    *This is an interesting post. US politics are a big jumble for me so your posts definately help.

    *Mormon’s make me rage-y.

    *”Jesus had two Dad’s, and he turned out just fine.”

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