The gay-rights cause Obama can actually do something about

By Ben Adler
May 9, 2012

On Wednesday, President Obama declared his evolution complete. In an interview with ABC News he said: “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Gay-rights groups rejoiced; conservative groups scolded. But what the president thinks about gay marriage is, ultimately, symbolic. There is a different issue on which Obama could achieve real, tangible results for gays and lesbians, and gain electoral advantage over Mitt Romney: employment discrimination.

Obama has already done everything he can on gay marriage. His administration has declared the federal law banning gay marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), to be discriminatory and declined to defend it in court. He has extended spousal benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees. Marriage laws, on the other hand, are written at the state level. Even a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, which Romney supports and Obama already opposed, is not actually signed by the president.

Meanwhile, it is still legal in 29 states to discriminate against gays and lesbians in hiring and firing employees, and in an additional five it is legal to discriminate against transgender people. There has been a Democratic bill floating around Congress called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would extend the federal protections of the Civil Rights Act to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Thus far Obama has said he supports the legislation, but has not called much attention to it.

Instead he’s spoken out on gay marriage, which may come with some political costs in November. It is preposterous to assert, as many political pundits do, that black voters will be receptive to attacks on Obama over gay marriage. Polling shows blacks have become roughly equal to whites in their acceptance of gay marriage. Obama enjoys high approval ratings among black voters, and they agree with him more than with Romney on every other issue. They are also accustomed to voting for more socially liberal politicians, just as wealthy pro-choice Republicans have accepted that they must vote for anti-abortion-rights candidates.

But perhaps it could hurt Obama at the margins among certain key demographics that lean against gay marriage, such as working-class white voters in the Midwest or Mexican-Americans in the Southwest. Meanwhile Democrats in socially conservative states who face a tough re-election fight, such as Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), are surely seething at the attack ad Obama just handed their opponents.

ENDA, by contrast, is a political winner. Protecting gays from discrimination in the workplace is an easier sell because social moderates can more readily see how sexual orientation has no bearing on one’s ability to do his or her job. Two of the main reasons people oppose gay marriage – the ick factor and religious beliefs – do not apply to workplace equality, at least not as much. In April 2011 Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research polled likely 2012 voters and found 73 percent support for protecting gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination. The support was incredibly widespread: 81 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans.

Opponents of ENDA are confined to the socially conservative, mostly elderly base of the GOP. They will not vote for Obama anyway. It is also much easier to paint opponents of ENDA as intolerant, or at least woefully out of touch. Romney said in 1994, when he was running for a Senate seat as a liberal in Massachusetts, that he would co-sponsor ENDA if he won. Luckily for him, he lost and never had to keep that promise. In 2007 he said he would oppose ENDA. Since then he hasn’t spoken about it, and his campaign has declined to comment when asked.

But the religious right wants Romney to come out strongly against ENDA. Just last week Romney’s foreign policy spokesman, Richard Grenell, quit because he was being criticized by religious-right leaders for being gay and felt the Romney campaign wasn’t supporting him. Bryan Fischer, the evangelical activist and talk-radio host who began the snowball of criticism of Grenell, told me that he wants Romney to pledge to veto ENDA if Congress passes it.

If Obama gave a campaign speech in which he called on Congress to pass ENDA and demanded that Romney do the same, he would stick Romney between a rock and a hard place. Romney would risk offending his base by saying that he would sign the law. But if he promised to veto it, he would risk alienating the upscale, moderate suburban swing voters he must court to win the general election.

Democrats didn’t pass ENDA when they held the majority, because many liberals wanted to include transgender people among those protected. (The legal language to make this change is to protect “gender identity” as well as sexual orientation.) For Democrats in more conservative states and districts, that’s a harder sell. To moderates, Obama can simply say that he would like to see the broadest protections possible in the bill, but he will sign a pared-down version if it comes to his desk. Civil-rights progress has always come in smaller steps than would be ideal. Workplace protections often precede more sensitive ones such as marriage, and acceptance of gays will precede acceptance for people who are transgender, even though they all deserve protection.

In any case, that’s a compromise he may not have to make. The polls show wide support for passing ENDA with protections for transgender people. If the activist and media pressure that was brought to bear on Obama over gay marriage is applied to Congress over ENDA, the measure could conceivably pass and extend civil-rights law to everyone. That would be a highly evolved outcome.

PHOTO: ABCNews.com.

12 comments

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Really interesting. I wonder, though, if non-discrimination laws have a politics all their own. For conservatives it’s about liberty. In the past they’ve argued that a person should be able to hire and fire whomever they want. If they’re a racist, sexist, whatever, that’s their problem, but leave the social change to the people. Remember that many conservatives had already distanced themselves from the language of overt racism when they argued against the Civil Right Act. (Many had not). I wonder if you’d find a similar rhetoric here. With gay marriage at least there’s no state coercion. I’d love to see Obama take this up, but I just wonder what that support you cite will do when exposed to the withering stench of conservative spin.

Posted by sammystyles | Report as abusive

Im for the gays and lesbians working in the workplace and recieving benifits and the President passing the ENDA law. I’m totaly against gay marriages. Mr. President. Im a democrat as of now, I’m highly educated when it comes to politics. So you want the gay’s vote. I would love to sit down with you privatly and educate you on homosexuality and then see if your still interested in passing a law for gay marriages. I voted for you in the past election. I know you and your wife are highly inteligent. I read about you in a book you had written, but if you would allow me, to speak to you about homaseuality privatly, I promise you Mr. President, you would change your mind about being so concerned about changing our laws so gay’s can get married.

Posted by Ladyblue | Report as abusive

[...] Ben Adler, writing for Reuters, says that if Obama really wants to do something for the LGBT community he should push for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA would essentially ban discrimination in the workplace based on your sexual orientation. [...]

LadyBlue seems to have some issues, but her obtuse comments about educating the president on homosexuals would change his mind, sounds like “all right to be gay, just don’t practice it”.

Discrimination in the workplace is still extremely common even among companies that get awards from HRC for their HR official policies. To get a true idea of the degree of discrimination against gays and lesbians in corporate America, ask HR to publish numbers of the top executives (3 to 4 levels below Chairman) that are held by person showing “SINGLE’ on their HR profile. Most gays have not been able to marry, so officially for HR they are single. I would guess that less than 5% of top executives are “SINGLE”.

Even for straight men and women, their is an unwritten corporate policy throughout the USA that to rise to upper ranks you have to be married. It is deemed the litmus test that you are actually straight.

I have known in the past many gays and lesbians who did the sham marriage just to save their career. I doubt if it goes on much today, but the discrimination against the unmarried, closeted or not closeted gay, is rampant. Where you see less than 5% of top management positions are held by women, people of color, you can be sure the practice of white male dominance extends to married and straight.

Laws are purely symbolic. Civil rights was passed in the 1960s yet you still have white southerners voting Republican because they can’t vote for a black man.

Posted by Acetracy | Report as abusive

Sorry Ben, Obama isn’t actually going to “do” anything.

He is going to stroke his voting bases a bit, one by one, get re-elected, and then have a 4 year lame duck session much akin to what exists right now; don’t get too excited.

Posted by jaham | Report as abusive

[...] The gay-rights cause Obama can actually do something about | The Great Debate. “My problem was not so much with God,” he writes, “as with increasing disbelief in [...]

This isn’t about marriage – it is about a mirage. Social morays will change but stop trying to demonize anyone who isn’t rushing to the gay cause. It will never be enough – quotas don’t mean you will get qualified individuals in upper management – just the opposite you get someone there because of their sexual orientation – how nuts is that. There are many people of all persuasions that feel they are being held out of the ‘in’ circle. Make your own business – that is the beauty of this country.

Posted by xit007 | Report as abusive

It is not quite certain that what this President thinks is important and maybe not the last one either

Posted by whyknot | Report as abusive

The United States of America has Sealed its Fate

America and the whole world is continuing to be judged by God even at this very moment. All the evidence abounds to this very truth yet people are ignoring it. These judgments from God are the warnings to turn back to Him. Are any turning back to God? There is no doubt that as a country the U.S.A. is about to fall very very hard. It is imminent because there are no outward signs of people turning back to God anywhere.

Below, are two extremely undeniable occurrences of what the American people have willfully done to themselves, and to their country, by promulgating evil, and even yet, still denying evils very existence.

Evil was made manifest again through the choosing of Barack H. Obama as leader. Evidence abounds and attests that Barack H. Obama was and is nothing more than a liar and that he has placed himself and his minion above the law of the land, and even so much more so, he has declared himself to be above God. Soon, all of what one calls Christianity will be outlawed in the U.S.A. The sting of death will soon be upon us. God have mercy.

What was once the last bastion of Christian hope is now under the control of satan and his minions. You don’t have to agree that what I say is true, but all will decide otherwise very very shortly. There simply is no turning back because most likely even you will not turn back to God first. And that is exactly what it would take to turn America around and put it back on the right track with God.

“We do not consider ourselves a christian nation”

When Barack H. Obama said those words it should have awakened all who claim Christianity to question their hearts and actions in their very own lives. Correction should have come, but did it?

Now, with Barack H. Obama making the statement below, all people proclaiming Christianity may desire to seek Gods definition of righteousness and apply it to their life even more. Will any?

What I see as the proverbial “last straw” has sealed our fate, unless homosexuality needs to be solemnized by making it law first. If so, then, immediately after the solemnization of homosexuality under guise as a law in ones nation. Anyway, the fact of the matter is that it truly has declared the fate of The United States of America. There will be nothing left to this nation except it’s wings which will survive to help Israel. All of this is just as God in His word, the Holy Bible, foretold.

I see this statement from Barack H. Obama a solemnization of homosexuality in America. Clearly he believes himself not only above the law of the land, but above God.

“I think same sex couples should be able to get married”

Each must not only keep the faith but each must also live it. Is this living it the part that even most Christians have personally decided they don’t need to do? You can count on a vast majority of people vehemently following suit with Obama and his (Americas’) declaration as usual, and that spells the end.

Posted by Raylinx | Report as abusive

Raylinx, you are obviously a very spiritual and holy man. I must assume the God for whom you speak is the Protestant Christian one found in Authorized version of the Holy Bible, known as the King Jame’s Version. This was an English translation begun in 1604 and finished in 1611 by the recently created Protestant faction The Church of England. As we all know, the raison d’etre of The Church of England was to allow King Henry the VIII to obtain a male heir. His saga for this heir began when he murdered a faithful advisor and Catholic Cardinal after 14 years of loyal service for the crime of failing to get the Pope to agree to his first of many divorces soon enough to suit him. More devoutly Christian victims followed including Thomas Moore and John Fisher. To consolidate his power, Henry VIII oversaw a mass closing of monasteries which were the sole providers of an impoverished populace. He managed to annul his first marriage to his brother’s widower with only a few executions. From then on, each successive divorce required more drastic measures and higher and higher body counts.

When he tired of his “first” wife Catherine (the annulment meaning that his real first wife had never actually been his wife), he embarked on a campaign to annul the marriage. When that failed, he proceeded without the Pope’s permission. Any adult in the kingdom who did not agree with the King’s wife swap was thrown in prison for life (meaning and early death). Anyone who published writing critical of this move was executed.
Many were killed. He married again.

Now Henry VIII began to realize that his new marriage to Anne Boleyn was soured when she bore a daughter (future Queen Elizabeth) and then suffered a miscarriage. The king viewed her failure to produce a male heir as an act of treason. When he began to search for a way to leave Anne without returning to Catherine, many church elders and monks protested. They were all rounded up and tortured and executed.

The problem for Henry was solved when Catherine died in 1536 and Anne became pregnant. Anne knew that her life hung in the balance should she not produce a healthy boy.
A few weeks later the King fell of a horse in a tourney and when news reached Anne she miscarried a 15 week old male child. It was the same day as Catherine’s funeral, and the day Anne’s execution became inevitable.
As Anne recovered from the miscarriage, Henry VIII declared that his marriage had been the product of witchcraft. The King’s new mistress, Jane Seymour, was quickly moved into new quarters.

Five men, including Anne’s own brother, were arrested on charges of incest and treason, accused of having sexual relationships with the queen. On 2 May 1536 Anne was arrested and taken to the Tower of London. She was accused of adultery, incest and high treason. Although the evidence against them was unconvincing, the accused were found guilty and condemned to death. At 8 am on 19 May 1536, the queen was executed.

One day after Anne’s execution in 1536 Henry became engaged to Jane Seymour, one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting to whom the king had been showing favor for some time. They were married 10 days later.

At last, Jane gave birth to a son, Prince Edward, the future Edward VI. Yet she died from complications from the birth. Henry considered Jane to be his “true” wife, being the only one who had given him the male heir that he so desperately sought. He was later to be buried next to her at his death.

Now Henry married another Anne, a noblewoman from Flanders. Yet after she arrived at his court, the marriage already legal, the morbidly obese Henry found her too plain looking. This queen Anne, seeing her danger, agreed that the marriage had never been consummated, clearing the way for annulment. She was made “King’s Sister” and given her own castle. Cromwell however, the man who’d arranged the marriage, was beheaded for his failure to find the king an appealing enough bride.

On 28 July 1540 (the same day Cromwell was executed), Henry married the young Catherine Howard, Anne Boleyn’s first cousin. Catherine was executed for having an affair on 13 February 1542. She was aged between 17 and 22 when she died (opinions differ as to her year of birth). That same year, England’s remaining monasteries were all dissolved, and their property transferred to the Crown.

Henry married his last wife, the wealthy widow Catherine Parr, in 1543. She argued with Henry over religion; she was a reformer, but Henry remained a conservative. This behaviour nearly proved her undoing, but she saved herself by a show of submissiveness.

Some 72,000 clergy and churchmen and political figures were executed by Henry due to either their opposition to his many wives or the religious reformations which he needed to justify each new wife. His last words: “Monks! Monks! Monks!”

Posted by BajaArizona | Report as abusive

The King James Version of the Holy Bible was the third English edition. King Henry VIII’s was the first. The second was the Bishop’s Bible in 1568. King James VI of Scotland and I of England convened the Hampton Court Conference where a new English version was conceived in response to the perceived problems of the earlier translations as detected by the Puritans, a faction within the Church of England. James gave the translators instructions intended to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England. The translation was done by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England.

Although the Authorized Version’s former monopoly in the English-speaking world has diminished—for example, the Church of England recommends six other versions in addition to it—it is still the most popular translation in the United States, especially among Evangelicals.

The evolution of the King James Bible only has moved to a more stringent definition wherein they do not refer to the King James Bible as a version. Instead of the abbreviations “KJV” they will note “KJB” this subtlety has been accused as factionalizing the movement, of “preserved” vs. “inspired”. Further drawing differential beliefs of those who use Greek and Hebrew Lexicons, Concordances, and other external sources to improve the (in their opinion) meanings of King James Language words. The more stringent believers hold that the King James Bible hold all the definition within the text, and no other sources are acceptable. The date of the birth of the King James Only doctrine is not known, but the earliest known point of origin for the concept of King James Onlyism is probably in the 1930s, beginning in some fundamentalist churches.[1] In Joey Faust’s 2011 book, The Word: God Will Keep It, Faust cites diverse quotations going back to the mid 1600s which demonstrate the bias of King James Bible Onlyism.

A brief history of the ENGLISH Christian Bible and translations:
OLD TESTAMENT
1450BC-900BC: Archaic Hebrew/Aramaic
400-500BC Square Script Hebrew
150BC-30AD Greek Septuagint
300AD Origen
OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS
30 AD-Jesus spoke Aramaic
30 AD-300 AD Writings in Greek about Jesus
322AD Eusebius of Caesarea defines Canon Emp Constantine
350AD LATIN Codex B, S, A
383 AD Jerome’s Latin Vulgate
600AD LATIN ONLY -Masoretic Text vowel standardisation
1382 AD Wycliffe Bible First English
1455 Gutenberg Bible
1516 Textus Receptus (GREEK)
1525 Tyndale: NT
1535 Myles Coverdale
1537 Thomas Matthew
1539 Taverner’s
1539 GREAT BIBLE 1st Authorised Version.
1546 Clementine
1546 Stephanus’ TR
1560 GENEVA Written in Geneva by exiled reformers. First Study Bible.
1568 BISHOP’s 2nd Authorised. The Geneva minus antipapal study notes.
1610 Douay / Rheim
1611 KING JAMES 3rd Authorised (KJV)Culmination of C16
translation work.
1782 Robert Aitken First US Printing King James Version without Apocrypha
1842 English Hexaplex 7 column printing of Greek plus 6 English
1873 Textus Receptus
1881 REVISED First major attempt to translate rigorously.
Work of 65 scholars.
1901 American Standard based on the Revised
1904 20 Century NT Greek literal translation
1934 Riverside NT Translation in “today’s” language

POST DEAD SEA SCROLLS REVISION FROM 1952 TO 1982 ANOTHER 9 VERSIONS.

Posted by BajaArizona | Report as abusive

President Obama’a support for same sex marriage is a National AIDS Disaster & a Disgrace.
(I’ve been a solid Atheist, Democrat & Liberal all of my 67 years, but this is just too much)

There is no such thing as a ” Monogamous Gay Marriage “.
All statistics done in the last 20 years by AIDS prevention organizations & Medical Associations reveal the the majority of gay men have experienced over 100 sexual relationships, without condoms, whether ‘same-sex married’ or not. These are the facts & you can kick them around & shuffle them all you want, they are what they are.

As these statistics prove there is no ‘ LOVE ‘ in gay marriage, instead it is a sexual obsession with dangerous consequences, AIDS.

To hell with economic issues Mr. Obama, because with the proliferation of gross homosexuality our society is going no where except hell.

Posted by GMavros | Report as abusive

GMavros,

Your facts are bogus, and your conclusions are lunatic.

As if you know one freaking iota about me or the millions of other gay people on this planet in loving relationships.

Don’t you dare pass judgment on me, you misinformed bigot.

Posted by savethequeen | Report as abusive

@ raylinx: Do you have even a shred of empirical evidence that God is judging anyone? I know you believe what you say but what facts, what data do you have to support your claims? Many studies have shown that True Believers, such as yourself, further entrench themselves in their belief system the more facts to the contrary are presented. True Believers do not present facts because they have none. Yes, it is your absolute right to believe what you want to believe. You do NOT have the right to foist your beliefs on anyone else without hard data to support those beliefs. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” You have no evidence.

Posted by explorer08 | Report as abusive

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