by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
The president's announcement favoring the right of same sex couples to marry is long overdue and better than nothing. But it doesn't make him a fearless warrior for human rights, any more than Henry Kissinger's Nobel Peace Prize makes him Mahatma Gandhi.
Obama's No-Risk Drive-By On Gay Marriage
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
“Marriage is a legal and human right that same sex couples and their families need, want and deserve. “
President Obama's belated declaration in favor of same sex marriage was not an act of political courage. Courage is risky and the president put nothing on the line he could lose. It wasn't about leadership, because Barack Obama arrived after and not before most of his party and most of the country. Barack Obama did a presidential drive-by, a mock-assault in which he rolled by and sprayed a clip full of rhetorical blanks in the general direction of the foes of equal rights at no risk to himself and without targeting anything in particular.
Think about it. If this had been a Republican president, say Reagan or Bush, making the opposite announcement, it would have been accompanied with a fistful of new executive branch regulations, a couple new bills for introduction in Congress, and a proposed constitutional amendment. Almost a week later, Obama is finally suggesting that repeal of the odious Defense of Marriage Act would be a good idea. But don't wait up for his people in Congress to introduce it.
Make no mistake, Obama's announcement is better than nothing. Marriage is a legal and human right that same sex couples and their families need, want and deserve. Without it, same sex partners can't visit each other in hospitals, can't get medical coverage for spouses, cannot make emergency medical decisions for each other and their survivors and children are not guaranteed access to joint assets, pensions or survivors benefits when one partner dies, and they have no access to divorce courts when coiuples break up.
This is crucially important because divorce courts are the only legal proceedings where the objective is equitable distribution of assets along with the best interests of children. Without access to divorce court the high earner in a same sex couple can pocket the lion's share of assets and walk away. Child support? If gay couples can't legally adopt or marry, don't count on it.
“The president's announcement satisfied a constituency that was mostly his already, and that makes significant campaign contributions as well. Some of his other supporters might grumble, but none of them will bolt. ”
Obama's belated announcement on gay marriage is good. It's just not all that good. Marriage is the overwhelming priority of well-off white gays. But the rest of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have other pressing issues.
If you're a gay teenager, your big problem might be having a place to live and attend school, how to stay out of the juvenile system after your parents kick you out or after your school turns a blind eye when you get beat down. If you're a gay or transgender adult, you might live in fear that your landlord or boss will discover your identity and fire or evict you. If you're gay or transgender and homeless, there are shelter and agencies who simply won't deal with you, and if you're in the custody of adult or juvenile correctional institutions, you've got special problems as well.
The president's announcement satisfied a constituency that was mostly his already, and that makes significant campaign contributions as well. Some of his other supporters might grumble, but none of them will bolt. So politically, it was a no-risk, no-lose proposition, and it gives staunch Obamaphiles still another halo, this one in rainbow colors, to hang on the head of their shining black prince.
So while the president's announcement in favor of gay marriage really IS a good thing, it doesn't make him a fearless warrior for human rights any more than his tainted Nobel Peace Prize made him Martin Luther King. After all, Henry Kissinger F.W. DeKlerk have those too.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.