It’s Not Where You Start: Not On Your Nellie

Originally published on It’s Not Where You Start.

I don’t believe I have ever voted against a Democratic candidate for office, unless you count the primaries when we choose one over the other. For years I was registered to vote unaffiliated — in part because my parents brought me up to value maximizing my flexibility. In Massachusetts, where the Democratic candidates are often (but, alas, not always) assured victory, it can be strategic to vote in a Republican primary. But several years ago I decided to make my Democratic affiliation official. The party gets my support at the polls, they deserve to be able to count me in their membership rolls.

I did not vote for President Obama in the primaries, but once he became our candidate, I have supported him wholeheartedly. But that doesn’t mean I have supported him blindly. There have been times when I’ve wished he moved faster, or bolder, or, you know, didn’t defend indefensible laws. When It Gets Better launched, I joined some of my friends in writing letters to President Obama asking him to make a speech to the nation’s youth about bullying. I didn’t expect his response to be a video in the It Gets Better Campaign, but that’s what he did.

I greeted his video with mixed emotions. When I shared his video on Facebook, I wrote:

Thank you, Mr. President, but you know what would help make it better? If our laws didn’t treat us like second-class citizens. This is a good first step – what will you do next to make equality for all Americans a reality?

Some of my friends responded with “Amen”s, others with “How dare you? What other sitting president has ever done so much for us?” But I have a hard time with that kind of relativistic approach. Sure, Obama has done more for us than Clinton, but Clinton wasn’t president in 2010, and the world today is a different place.

Eventually, my rage quelled and I moved on to other projects. So I was sort of surprised when I received the following email a few days ago:

Dear Friend:

Thank you for writing. We must stand united to protect liberty and justice for all our citizens, and I appreciate your perspective on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.

My Administration has taken a number of steps to address issues affecting the LGBT community. Leading by example, I extended benefits to same-sex partners of Federal employees in the Civil and Foreign Services. I also signed a Presidential Memorandum directing hospitals receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds to give all patients the compassion and security they deserve in their time of need, including the ability to choose who can visit them and make medical decisions. To help take on discrimination in all its forms, we are working to ensure that core Federal housing programs are open to all, and I signed landmark legislation that strengthens protections against hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation. We also ended the ban on entry to the United States for people living with HIV/AIDS, and we issued the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

While we have made great strides, much work remains to achieve full equality for LGBT individuals. I stand by my commitment to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Pentagon leaders are ensuring we can change this in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and national security. I have urged Congress to pass the bipartisan Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, and I support extending the over 1,100 Federal marital rights and benefits to same-sex couples. I also support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Adoption rights must also be secured for LGBT families, and we need to ensure our children are free to learn in supportive environments in school. For information about my commitment to preventing bullying and harassment, along with resources for those facing bullying, visit: www.wh.gov/itgetsbetter.

To learn more about my Administration’s efforts to create a more open and tolerant society, please visit: www.WhiteHouse.gov/Issues/Civil-Rights.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

And you know what? I sort of do feel better. I mean, the fact that the president has a fairly well-thought-out form letter for this set of issues makes me proud. Remembering the progress he has made — despite the inexcusable missteps he has also made — makes me proud as well. So I’m willing to give him a little more of a pass… not a “hooray he’s good for the gays” pass, but a “wait and see and we’ll judge when he’s done” pass.

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