How Gay-Friendly is Obama?
It looks as though Senator Barack Obama has the American presidential election sewn up. I’m sitting here with five different news sites open and, although the US cable stations are loathe to make the same mistake as they did in 2000, and announce the results too early, most people agree the man from Chicago is a shoe-in. So what does this mean for gays?
Obama is more of a liberal than Clinton was, and supports full lgbt equality but not gay marriage, indeed he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 as well as a Federal Marriage Amendment in the same year.
Obama supports gay civil unions. A word of warning though, he wants individual states to decide if these unions will be recognised.
He says that lgbts should have the same rights to adopt children as heterosexuals.
He is against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the US military, and says it should be abolished.
He says that he thinks the Employment Non-Discrimination Act should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
He is also pro-choice.
However, you have to look at this from a political standpoint and it’s difficult to know where the rhetoric ends and the future begins. Obama will, undoubtedly, change the lives of lgbt Americans, but in what way? Let’s be honest, in such an uncertain economic climate the rights of a minority could easily be shoved to the bottom of the list. It’s a sad reality that members of the lgbt community still have to settle for less than equality in a country which, disingenuously, sees itself as the world’s greatest democracy.
From an Irish perspective, the disappointing factor here is Obama’s insistence that gay marriage or civil unions will be a federal matter, ie. that states decide whether to recognise them or not. This means that, unlike in the case of Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan whose marriage is recognised by the Canadian government, any couple married in one state isn’t in other. Why is this an issue in Ireland? Well, we’ll have less scope for people like Katherine and Ann Louise to come home married, and fight our Catholic-heavy laws.
The only way things will change here is through legislation. The Irish government always cowers behind the courts, which for members of the lgbt community, means we have to look to other countries for precedence and people brave enough to fight.
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