(had to throw a little yat into the title — for a translation it means “what’s up”)
Today, the White House announced that same sex partners of federal employees will become eligible for certain spousal benefits. There are a few problems with this: For one thing, the administration has yet to say whether or not benefits will be equally extended to same sex partners (as in the same benefits given in the same amounts and manner given to straight partners). Another problem is that in most states same sex partnerships are illegal. Because federal eligibility for benefits are based on a recognized marriage (which is regulated at the state level), it means that only those GLBT federal employees married in, residing in, and employed in NY, CA, IA, MA, NH, & ME who have locally recognized unions will be eligible. Basically, the President is attempting to satiate a core constituency with an olive branch that doesn’t actually have any olives on it.
Is it progress? Yes, at this point to the GLBT community, anything is progress. Even Obama doing nothing is a refreshing change from people like Bush and Jindal, who seek to oppress the gay community and to strip them of benefits (remember that Jindal’s first act as governor was to rescind same sex partner benefits for state employees).
Progress in any form is good, but the GLBT community was promised Change — particularly, “Change we can believe in.” In fact, the Obama campaign very specifically courted the GLBT community. Gay Americans accounted for some of the largest donations to his campaign, and unlike previous politicians, Obama promised real, distinct, planned-out changes to federal laws to finally bring equality and civil rights to this community.
Gays are smart, and they know how politics work. This is why they were careful not to require Obama to openly talk about Gay rights during the campaign. But there were discussions, agreements, and alliances. Obama received the full and very open support of the gay community during the campaign. And the Gay community quietly allowed this support to be tacit with the first open public acknowledgment being during Obama’s victory speech in Chicago, where he specifically included gay Americans in his oratory. The gays have also been up to now fairly patient in letting the President get his feet wet and prove himself with other issues like the economy. But now, to put it bluntly we’re getting sorta pissed.
Many people mistakenly think of Gay Americans as a small group of rainbow flag waving drag queens and HGTV designers. Likewise, the Democratic party also mistakenly assumes that gays will vote for the Democrat. The fact is: gays are all around you. Sure you may know 1 or 2 who are openly gay, and then there’s that coworker everyone assumes is gay, but for every one of them, there are 10 or more you aren’t aware of. Most of the gay community does not live openly. Some are even married and have kids. When society develops rules that punish a group for whom they are, that groups tends to become mostly hidden.
Maybe people want them hidden. Many groups go out of their way to make it seem like gays are a small fringe group. Christian Conservative “think tanks” have over the years used various numbers to downplay the GLBT population in the US. At one time they said 1 in 1000 were likely gay, then it became 1 in 100, now some of the more progressive claim 1 in 10. Well for anyone who took basic high school biology and studied Mendel’s genetic research, the likelihood is that only ~25% of the population is straight, ~25% is gay, and the other 50% fall somewhere in the middle (whether they act on it or not). Research and surveys by Kinsey validate this and pretty much every scientific survey done since has shown the same thing. (before you comment, “research” done by religious organizations is not research nor is it scientific)
What I am getting at is that the GLBT community is a major chunk of the population. They tend to pool resources, have very good communications, and they VOTE. They come in every shape, color, and size; have every type of job, and belong to as many political parties as their straight counterparts. Basically, it is an absolute fallacy for the Democrats and especially for President Obama to assume that Gays will vote for them.
The gay community will not become the black community of the 21st Century, with politicians promising them change every election only to not deliver but expect their support next time around. Black voters and Hispanic voters realized this and finally quit taking handouts from white politicians and began electing their own to represent them a generation ago. In many places, this may not be a viable option for gay voters. But one thing should be clear, gay voters will not sit idly by and see their rights further eroded. They will also likely be quite as open to supporting a Republican who will deliver on equality as they would be a Democrat who claims to offer change and then chooses not to deliver.
The GLBT community does not expect full equality over night. However, they do expect full equality in the Military; they do expect full federal recognition of equal marriage; and they do expect equality and equal protection under the law. If Mr. Obama fails to deliver, and soon, on these issue (which he promised to support), then he can expect much less support during the next election and a LOT more Log Cabin Republican votes. Where’s the change?