Welcome Tracy Baim, Windy City Times, and Host, Teddy Partridge, FDL.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Obama and the Gays: A Political Marriage

Teddy Partridge, Host:

We should have paid closer attention to Tracey Baim, I suppose: she nicknames Barack Obama “The Great Equivocator,” having covered him since the beginning of his career. She was the managing editor of Outlines (the Chicago publication that since merged with Windy City Times) in 1996 when reporter Trudy Ring correctly reported on then-State Senate Candidate Barack Obama’s response to their candidate survey:

Democrat: Barack Obama. Supports gay rights, same-sex marriage; increased AIDS funding, abortion rights, affirmative action.

Despite appearing on national LGBT blog The Bilerico Project, Tracy Baim’s dry wit covers it: “The story did not blow up big before the November election.”

She meticulously and comprehensively traces the “evolution” of Barack Obama’s relationship with the LGBT community, and (like the rest of us) seems quite baffled by what appears to be the only documented case of a mainstream political figure moving against the cultural tide on marriage equality. By the time Obama appears alongside Pastor Rick™ Warren at his Saddleback mega-church in the summer of 2008, he had a whole new formulation about traditional opposite marriage: “God’s in the mix.”

He was for it (same-sex marriage) before he was against it.

Nowhere was Obama’s instinct for equivocation more on display than during the fall campaign that got him elected and LGBT Californians stripped of their civil right to marry: he opposed the “divisive” Prop 8 but wouldn’t act against its proponents who used his image and voice in their last minute ads. Worse, his campaign may have drained resources from California, desperately needed at the end of the campaign against Prop 8, into neighboring states, pulling volunteers, donors, and attention from a state he knew he had sewn up.

But this book is more than a compendium of The Great Equivocator’s relationship with LGBT Americans. It’s also an excellent reference — although, after DADT “repeal” and the “It Gets Better” movement, it is slightly out of date — for anyone who wants to follow the twists and turns of Obama’s campaigns, Obama’s positions, Obama’s stirring rhetoric, and the Obama Administration’s tapdance around our rights. Especially valuable to me was the detailed description of aligning The Gays Who Matter around the three major Democratic candidates for president in 2008.

Just this week, Team Obama once more showed that they are unwilling to take their foot off our necks when it comes to the Defense of Marriage Act: despite all the nice words about hospital visitation and federal employee benefits eligibility and his signature on the previously-passed Hate Crimes Act, Obama’s Justice Department still brought its mighty weight down upon us all, in their response to the District Court’s decision ruling DOMA unconstitutional, by appealing to the higher court, with no new or creative arguments, to apply the status quo.

For a president we elected in Hope of Change, an argument against our relationships predicated on maintaining the federal status quo is simply one more bitter pill to swallow. We’ve seen his White House head off Congressional approval of non-discrimination in military service for that year-long study, an interminable certification process, and then a subsequent two-month waiting period. We’ve also seen the largest Democratic majorities in Congress squandered, with no action to end jobs and housing discrimination, or to treat LGBT families the same for immigration purposes, or to end the Defense of Marriage Act. John Boehner’s House won’t move on these initiatives to make us full and complete partners in American life, and there’s no telling, really, how long the House will be the GOP’s.

It’s very distressing to me to be so often reminded, by a Democratic Administration, of the statement by Richard Nixon’s utterly corrupt and subsequently imprisoned Attorney General, John Mitchell: “Watch what we do, not what we say.”

Tracy Baim helps us remember what Barack Obama has done — and what he has said as well. This is a valuable book, one I really enjoyed reading and can heartily recommend to you. Every journalist and blogger who writes about Barack Obama should have a copy. Surely every fan of every Part Four essayist should want this book: featured are Pam Spaulding, Michelangelo Signorile, Lisa Keen, Kerry Eleveld, and the Reverend Irene Monroe, among many others.

Those of us who still watch and Hope can learn a lot about the man — and probably about ourselves as well — from this remarkable book. Please join me in welcoming Tracy Baim, author of Obama and The Gays: A Political Marriage, to the FDL Book Salon.

134 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Tracy Baim, Obama and the Gays: A Political Marriage”

BevW January 23rd, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Tracy, Welcome to the Lake.

Teddy, Thank you for Hosting this Book Salon.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Thanks Teddy.

RevBev January 23rd, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Looks like there is no way around this disillusionment….Would you give some other examples of what earned the early Equivocator tag?

dakine01 January 23rd, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Tracy and welcome to FDL this afternoon.

Good afternoon Teddy!

Tracy, I have not had a chance to read your book so forgive me if you answer this in it but what were your thoughts as you’ve observed President Obama move away from his earlier stated positions? Frustration? Anger? Or just general awareness that way too many pols lie as a second nature?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I think that most people are pretty cynical about politicians, so yes they expect such movement. With Obama, it was just such a huge move away from gay marriage that it shocked some.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Welcome, Tracy! Thanks for joining us today.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Tracy, have you — or anyone else — ever had an opportunity to ask Barack Obama directly about the response he gave to your 1996 survey where he indicated he fully supported same-sex marriage?

Do we know how he got from that to the answer he gave Pastor Rick™ Warren at Saddleback Church in the summer of 2008?

Are there any other American politicians you’re aware of whose views on marriage equality have evolved against the mainstream as Barack Obama’s seem to have done?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I have asked through channels for an interview with Obama about this, but I am not aware that anyone has asked him directly on this. In my 2004 Windy City Times interview with him for U.S. Senate, he spoke of his rationale for supporting civil unions as opposed to marriage. He started retreating on gay marriage even later in that 1996 race, and more firmly in his next race for state Senate. So he back-tracked pretty quickly on full gay marriage, not just in 2008. I am not aware of any mainstream politician who was for us before they were against us on this issue–because so few ever were for full gay marriage, especially in the 1990s. In many ways, Obama’s full support of gay marriage in 1996 is probably one of the few times we see a politician NOT being a politician, not worrying about ramifications of controversial stands, and actually believing we are equal. It is a shame that politics forces people to compromise their own beliefs.

What shocked people more than his switch to civil unions was that he added “God” to the mix, rather than it being just a political practicality. That was uncalled for, and something many in our community are concerned about. You can be against us based on practical political realities, about what is achievable, but do not cross the line of separation between church and state. As a constitutional lawyer, Obama knows this better than most.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:05 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 8

(As an aside, there’s a button to the lower right of each response, which you can press to indicate that you’re answering a specific question. As things get faster here today, it might be helpful to use that….)

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:05 pm
In response to Teddy Partridge @ 9

Thanks Teddy

ThingsComeUndone January 23rd, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Obama and the Gays: A Political Marriage

Made in Hell? He Cheated from the start of the Marriage? Gays heck we were all taken in? Time for a Divorce? Its not really the lying its the bad lies like he doesn’t respect Gays enough to tell a good lie (another thing Obama and Bush have in common).

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:06 pm

You wrote and compiled a lot of information about Barack Obama, the politician.

Many people still seem to think he’s kept himself private. Do the Obamas count among their inner circle any LGBTs? Have they ever attended a commitment ceremony or marriage of a same-sex couple?

Do they personally know any same-sex couples with children? How close are they to the LGBT staffers in the White House now? Do you think they have a political or personal understanding of our issues and challenges?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:07 pm

When Obama was in the Chicago political arena, he for sure had many close LGBT friends, as did his wife Michelle. I believe some of those people are still close with the Obamas, and have attended events at the White House. In my book, I interviewed many LGBTs from Chicago who were close to them here, including those who have had marriages and those with children. I am not aware if the Obamas have attended any gay marriages, but I know they have congratulated gays and lesbians individually who have had such marriages. I think both Michele and Barack have a deep understanding of LGBT issues and Barack has even indicated his personal struggle on marriage, walking a tightrope and not wanting to get too far ahead of the historical curve. It is painful to watch, but many LGBTs understand his position. Some are frustrated, but many understand how difficult it must be to represent a nation that is evolving, and in some cases devolving, on these issues. Especially because the Obamas do have close gay friends.

ThingsComeUndone January 23rd, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Is any WH press person ever going to ask the Obama WH if their next Justice Dept filling will be against Mixed Marriage or African Americans being able to get married at all?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:08 pm

My response to this is that Obama has actually done more for LGBT rights than any previous sitting presidents combined. Unfortunately not on all the issues we want and as fast as we want. In the book, hundreds of progressive steps are outlined, from small policy changes to appointments, and big laws as well. Unfortunately for Obama the bar is much higher for him than any previous president, as well.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 13

I wonder if those close LGBT friends have commented to him about the ‘tightrope’ or if they remain committed supporters of his.

RevBev January 23rd, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 13

Is it accurate to assume that the Jeremiah Wright church would welcome LGBTs?

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Hellooo Tracy! I’ve been waiting all week ever since I saw that your book was coming up in rotation for Salon.

(Thanks for hosting Teddy!)

eCAHNomics January 23rd, 2011 at 2:09 pm

The Great Equivocator

Why such a flattering moniker?

More seriously, if you look only at what O has done wrt LGBT issues, and eliminate everything he has said, what is the record?

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:10 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 19

You. Stole. My. Next. Comment. !!! :)

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:10 pm

The frustration about the Department of Justice filings is very understandable. Obama, as an attorney, seems to believe that the way to secure rights for the long term is to secure them on more solid ground, legislatively, rather than at the lower courts level. His statements have indicated he believes DOJ needs to defend these laws, but of course our community generally disagrees and there are numerous precedents where the federal government does in fact fight laws.

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I’m thankful you are here talking to us, Tracy. ::big smile:: I’m sorry I haven’t read your book. I plan to.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:11 pm

There are about three dozen LGBT friends and allies from Chicago interviewed for the book, and almost all of them stand firm with Obama, even if they are concerned about individual actions he has taken.

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:12 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 21

Any inside info about the response to the repellent statements from Obama’s DOJ vis-a-vis incest and pedophilia?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:12 pm
In response to RevBev @ 17

The book has interviewed with LGBT members of Wright’s church (when he was still in charge). They say while he was not perfect on gay issues, they actually did feel welcome there, and there was a gay ministry while he was there. And it was NOT trying to cure them!

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:12 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 15

This is a really important point.

Reading your book, I was overwhelmed, and sometimes a little embarrassed at my own impatience. But then I remembered: Obama has told us we are entitled to our impatience. So, while he’s operating in a sphere where he can only do so much as President, it’s up to us to agitate outside that sphere.

Do you think Obama is comfortable seeing the agitation as much as it is, or do you think he gets angry at us for not showing enough gratitude for his remarkable achievements on our behalf?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:13 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 18

Thank you Kelly. I am at editor@windycitymediagroup.com in case we don’t get thru all the questions today. I am new to this kind of interview!

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Tracy, do you know if the Obamas have any Transgender friends? As a Transsexual Woman I’d like to know if he has any sense of us as persons.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I do think he is actually surprised at how strong the attacks have been at times, including at live events he appears at. He has sometimes shown impatience back at the activists–because he knows he has done so much. It just shows that as a great communicator, he has actually done a pretty weak job at communicating his successes. I do not think he is angry, though, because I do see his activism background as informing his responses to protests. He enjoys the give and take on issues, like a good basketball player enjoys the back and forth on the court.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:16 pm

That is a good question. I am not aware of trans friends in his close circle, but I do know that the policies he has implemented, and the hiring he has done, have been VERY inclusive on this issue. Including the phrase “gender identity” in most of the changes. This is also tru of the State Dept. under Clinton. The book has numerous cases of trans inclusion, including on changing of passport regulations.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 27

You’re doing great!

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 24

Yes, Obama told close associates he was very upset with that and in a subsequent filing that wording was not included.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:17 pm

No worries– it is a big book! The website is http://www.obamaandthegays.com and it is also available on Kindle and iPad. the iPad version is great because it is 4-color–and there are 140 images in the book, most in color.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 29

Generally — beyond LBGT accomplishments — this inability to accurately communicate successes to constituencies seems to permeate this White House. Did you notice this handicap in Obama’s earlier career in Illinois? Did he have a hard time convincing constituents what he’d got done for them?

Where do you think this communications problem happens?

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I was overwhelmed, and sometimes a little embarrassed at my own impatience.


It has been over 40 years since Stonewall. At the time of the passage of the Civil Rights Bill, the 40 years prior date would have been in the 1920′s.

Power concedes nothing without a demand, and I feel real sorry for Obama that he’s the one going backwards on LGBT issues – not.

Impatience, and guilt for it? Come on.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 19

As I mentioned before, Obama actually has a very good record on LGBT issues. The problem is a lot of it is not the sexy headline-grabbing stuff, but in fact it helps out millions of LGBTs thru changes in policies. It is what the great Molly Ivins pointed out about Shrub Bush–the small details of all the changes he was doing and the damage they caused, that was the real problem with the Bush years. Well, Obama is undoing some of that, and including LGBTs along the way.

eCAHNomics January 23rd, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 20

Hey, give me one point for command of the obvious. *g*

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 32

Then why did it happen in the first place?

eCAHNomics January 23rd, 2011 at 2:21 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 21

“Scuse me, but that sounds like 11-dimension chess (a term of high derision). Occum’s razor would suggest that such court filings reveal O’s true intent.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I did not see a communication problem coming from Obama while he was in Illinois. I think with such a huge system and so many advisers, it is difficult for Obama to actually be the president he would like to be. If he does get a second term, I would expect he will have more freedom to be who he really wants to be.

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Tracy, do you know what Obama’s position is on inclusion of gender reassignment medical needs in health care insurance?

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 35

I am not guilty for my impatience generally, but a little embarrassed at my impatience with Obama’s progress. Reading the book, with accomplishment after accomplishment piled up one after another, it’s hard not to realize that this president really has done more for our community than all the others put together.

I’m not satisfied — far from it, as you well know, Kelly — but reading this book made me understand why Obama seems to lash out when he’s heckled. He has this very long list of things he’s done for us, which is true and real. And he — not the other side! — gets heckled for not moving fast enough on all fronts.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:22 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 38

The Dept. of Justice attorneys working on this case did this and unfortunately no one realized the political minefield of the appeal and therefore Obama did not see the wording. It was actually not a dominant part of the brief, so those who should have been looking out for Obama’s political interests just did not red flag it. It was a mistake that was quickly corrected, but it was a mistake that happened at a time with LGBTs were already on edge about progress going too slowly.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Nowhere was Obama’s mastery of equivocation better illustrated than during the Prop 8 campaign, where supporters used his image and words in materials opposing marriage equality and opponents (belatedly) used his letter opposing the ‘divisive’ amendment.

All this happened without any direct intervention by the campaign, except to siphon California resources into nearby swing states, particularly Nevada, where they might have been available to fight the last-minute surge in support for Prop 8 in-state.

Do you think there’s any expectation that Team Obama will handle a 2012 repeal-Prop-8 campaign any differently in California?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I know that some LGBTs who were from California later had buyer’s remorse that they spent most of their time on Obama and not enough on their own rights in California. [Reporter Karen Ocamb has a great article in the book about this.] But the loss in California can’t be pinned on Obama. There were missteps from the strategists on the gay side, as well as a disadvantage with the funding coming from the right and the Mormon church. I think it continues to be a disadvantage for the gay movement to be fighting against institutions that can spend money and lobby against us, yet they are tax exempt in doing so. If the Mormon church, Evangelicals and others want to lobby and spend money against us, we need a level playing field. They need to pay taxes. But separate from that, we as a community must be responsible for our own victories, and not rely on one leader to make or break our cause. If we were to win thanks to one person, that victory would not be as strong when the political tides inevitably turn.

As for 2012 and California, a lot depends on what is on the ballot that year. If there is a ballot measure in California next year, it will for sure cause a split of LGBT resources, but I do not believe it will be as bad as before. I think California LGBTs and our allies learned a strong lesson to not take their eyes completely off the prize of LGBT rights in favor of one person. We need BOTH strategies to win–strong local AND national activism.

eCAHNomics January 23rd, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 21

Obama, as an attorney, seems to believe that the way to secure rights for the long term is to secure them on more solid ground, legislatively, rather than at the lower courts level

Oh! Forgot to respond to that. That is nothing more than code, or dogwhistle if you will, for postponing progress forever. It’s a replay of the ‘states rights’ vs. slavery red-herring ‘battle.’

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:28 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 46

I agree it is a delay tactic that our community does not support. And of course has been used against many groups.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:28 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 45

I just hope whoever runs the California repeal-8 campaign in 2012 — if there is one next year — is prepared to counter the use of the president’s image and words against marriage equality. He may be opposed to divisive amendments, but his stand against our right to marry will work against us.

eCAHNomics January 23rd, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Another hypothesis I have about O is that he seems particularly adept at finding the sweet spot that manages to piss off all sides to the maximum.

Any comments?

He’s certainly managed to PO the LGBT community to the max, without pleasing the other side.

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:30 pm

OK Tracy – I’m going to cheekily cut to the chase, and ask you to not to equivocate!

Obama to LGBTs: Friend or foe?

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Can you tell us a little about the mechanics of putting together such a huge and comprehensive book, Tracy? How did you secure all the contributors contributions? What was your strategy and timeline? Do you have suggestions for other authors contemplating other books about ‘current events?’

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 2:30 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 46
Obama, as an attorney, seems to believe that the way to secure rights for the long term is to secure them on more solid ground, legislatively, rather than at the lower courts level

Oh! Forgot to respond to that. That is nothing more than code, or dogwhistle if you will, for postponing progress forever. It’s a replay of the ‘states rights’ vs. slavery red-herring ‘battle.’

That’s a problem I have too. Isn’t a court decision that a law is unconstitutional a more secure right than a legislative action? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the administration to work to take the lower court’s decision up the chain to the Supreme Court and given no real defense?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 49

It is interesting that by walking in the middle, he actually de-motivates his base, but does not win any supporters from the right. This will hurt him in the re-election, if the administration does not figure out a way to re-motivate the new voters that turned out in 2008.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 50

Obama is a friend to LGBTs. There is not a doubt in my statement. However, he is a political friend, which means we are not always invited to the table. And we have to keep pounding on the door to remind him of his promises, and his belief in full equality for all. Unfortunately a lot of LGBTs took for granted that by electing him we would get our rights. That is not how it works, even with a pro-gay president (Clinton signed DADT and DOMA into law). We have to take control of our own destiny, even with friends. This is true in Chicago politics, Illinois politics, etc.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 54

What worries me is when I hear people very close to him, like Valerie Jarrett, use a phrase like “lifestyle choice” about a suicided teen. This is very disturbing, and her comfort level with that anathema word choice was very disturbing to lots of people.

Does Team Obama generally have an up-to-date understanding of what it is to be LGBT? Is ‘lifestyle choice’ how they talk about us amongst themselves?

eCAHNomics January 23rd, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 53

What role do his corp contributors play in LGBT issues? I’d imagine they (corps) are against any progress because they don’t want the added expense of medical & other coverage. What did you unearth about that confluence of influences?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:37 pm

This book was done extremely quickly. I had of course covered Obama for years, but only decided in early 2010 to do a book in time for the mid-terms. So in March I started interviewing people, and asking some contributor to submit essays. Since I am publisher of Windy City Times, I work with a lot of these writers in some capacity, as well as the photographers. I was very sick from May-July, but as soon as I was feeling better, I just cranked it out in August. I had three amazing senior editors–Jorjet Harper, Toni Armstrong Jr and William B. Kelley. They worked so fast. This book has more than 220,000 words, 140 images, and 570 pages, yet they were able to turn it around in a few short weeks, as I handed over each of the chapters.
Because I was doing this myself, I paid the designer, editors, writers and photographers out of my own pocket. So I have to sell a lot of books to break even! But I decided it was too important NOT to do it in 2010. I had heard so many complaints about Obama, some justly deserved, but most not, that I just wanted to put it all in one place. As a journalist, I felt an obligation to put all the facts together so people could make up their own minds.
The book is available now on the IPad in the ebooks store, plus on Kindle and Amazon.com. But any bookstore or library can also order it through their normal ordering channels.
I am happy to tell writers how this happened in greater detail. I just did a novel the same way–The Half Life of Sgt. Jen Hunter, about LGs in the military in 1991, prior to DADT.

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:38 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 54

I accept your “friend” answer.

I accept your statement of controlling our own destiny with friends.

I challenge your definition of Political friend though. Do you really mean “ally, when expedient”?

(This is not an attack. I’ll just be aggressive about this for a bit, as I’m going to ask about resources a little down the line here.)

eCAHNomics January 23rd, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Ding. Ding. Ding.

One of the few ‘spoken’ clues, that actually reveals truth about how O’s admin actually thinks about the issues.


O’s verbal ‘slips?’ What do they reveal?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I recommend in the book that Obama have a full-time LGBT liaison (he has one part-time, a white gay male), perhaps even 2-3 from different parts of the LGBT, because no one part-time person can really do the job right. There is so much nuance to our community that even all LGBTs do not “get” all of our issues! So I do believe they need a higher level full-time person, at least one, on this to make sure to cover all the bases and stop the stumbles that could be easily fixed.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:41 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 58

Actually, I do not believe Obama includes us in his “rainbow” out of political necessity. He was good on LGBT rights when he first entered politics in 1996, when the district he was from was not significantly LGBT. Also, while the LGBT voter and donor base is important to the Democratic Party, we are not a huge part of it. So Democrats have won without a strong LGBT base–in Obama’s case, we did help him, but percentage wise we just do not have huge clout. I think that clout is underestimated, however, because our allies in the progressive movement, and our families, also vote on our issues, so that we have more influence than some count.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:42 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 57

I really meant it in my intro when I wrote that people writing about LGBTs and Obama must have your book. Broadening that to a wider frame, I’ll also say that anyone writing about Obama through any lens should have your book at their side. It’s a really comprehensive resource.

At the same time, it provides an entirely readable recollection of very specific times in Obama’s career. You captured better than anyone I’ve read yet the tenor of the 2008 primary, for instance.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 59

I do not think the slips in language really reveal much. I have to say I even hear LGBT people often use different words that are not “kosher” or “PC.” In fact, some lesbians do feel being lesbian is a choice, not a genetic predisposition. Truly, our own community does not even agree on terms, and some gays don’t accept the “T” as part of the movement. So pitty the politician who tries to get it right 100% of the time.

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Tracy, I’m going to ask my Transgender question again, you must have missed it.

Does Obama have a position on inclusion of gender reassignment medical needs in health care insurance? I know it was left out of the “reform.” But was that political necessity, opposition on his part or just ignorance of the problem that our medical needs are allowed to be not covered?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 56

Corporate influence is only getting worse an for the 2012 election will likely be the worst in history. But most Fortune 500 companies actually have LGBT inclusive polices (look to HRC for a report card). Many offer health insurance for DP, to be competitive. So while some may see economic issues related to LGBT rights, I do not see that as a major lobbying point for them. Their big issues are going to be much bigger than DP benefits–corporate regulations, taxes, etc. LGBT employee groups have really changed the overall corporate environent at most major companies.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 60

Truly an excellent idea.

When we see our internal differences break out into the open — whether in media or the blogosphere — it’s always an eye-opener to me how different we are: generationally, gender-ly, racially, socio-economically, gender expressionally. I think having a an ex-military person in the WH political office would be wonderful, and I have one in mind: Autumn Sandeen, who “checks so many boxes” in her identity and expression.

I wonder if that’s too bold a move for a cautious first-termer like we have, though.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Almost all LGBT issues were left off the healthcare bill. People with HIV/AIDS fortunately were not (pre-existing conditions section will be immense help to them). So I do not think this was a specific targeting of T, in this case LGBT all were negatively influenced when the healthcare compromise happened.

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 61

There are hardly any districts that are significantly LGBT. There never will be many; and “political need” is not the point.

I’m not new to this game; been working LGBT politics as the local soldier for years, and in Amendment 2 territory here in CO.

And, just to back up for a second here, the term “equivocator.” It really means equally voiced, right?

What’s stopping Obama from getting on the absolute right side of the issues for LGBTs and making an UNequivocal statement along the lines of “it’s the content of our character, not who we were born to love?”

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 61

Obama’s voters, specifically the under-30, are vastly in favor of LGBT rights. He risks a disconnect with these, who put him where he is, by equivocating on our issues. For many of them, not LGBT, it’s seen as a human rights issue, something they care deeply about.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Even if they were not full-time staff, there should be a better way to inform from all our “parts” in LGBT. There is an informal behind-closed-doors group of volunteer Obama LGBT advisers. I do not think that is good enough. We need this to be more transparent so we can gauge how reflective it is of our amazingly diverse community.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 63

On this note about language, can you tell us a little about your title?

Many people in our community would have called your book “Obama and the LGBTs” — why didn’t you?

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 67

Right. But has Obama given any sense where he stands on the issue of T medical needs? For the T part of the coalition this is the MAIN political issue for us. I don’t think most non T folk realize how expensive a gender transition is and that insurance usually doesn’t cover it, unless you work for the city of San Francisco. Canada and most European countries cover it. But here in the U.S. lots of us who are not upper middle class are stuck, unable to afford it and at more danger for hate crimes because of our situation.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 68

I say in the book that I do not think he would be hurt if he stood firm for gay marriage. I truly believe that. The people who hate Obama already think he IS for gay marriage. The compromises win no friends and certainly change no enemies. If he gave a major speech on gay rights and gay marriage, if he truly did the right thing on this, I believe he would motivate so many disillusioned people that it would outstrip the right wing. That is not to say it would be easy, and we would have to really push for an even more amazing voter turnout in 2012, but with a president no longer hemming and hawing about full equality, but standing 100% on the right side of history, he could really stand tall. I am not a politician, so I really can’t think like one. But that’s what I believe.

January 23rd, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 73

Sure. So what’s stopping Obama, is…Obama.

See, I can’t call that an ally.

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 2:53 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 73

f he gave a major speech on gay rights and gay marriage, if he truly did the right thing on this, I believe he would motivate so many disillusioned people that it would outstrip the right wing.


RevBev January 23rd, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 73

He should hire you. I think you have a very calm, unruffled approach. Seems like he needs some help.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I explain in the book my reasons for this. I am a lesbian. I have covered the community since 1984, when I was 21 years old and right out of journalism school. Our community’s own language and definitions have changed a lot over the years. Some lesbians use the terms gay, or queer, or other terms. And some include I (intersex) and A and extra T or Q in LGBTTIQA … we are evolving. But when we are talking in general, and when people talk about the movement, it often boils down to the simple term “gay.” I did debate this a lot, but “the gays” is a favorite term of mine by comic Kathy Griffin, and I thought it was the most powerful title to use. And with a little inside joke as well. “The gays.” But my own political views are that we are ALL in this–LGBTTIQA and I have always included all the parts of our community in my coverage. I am publisher of Windy City Times, which I co-founded in 1985 at age 22.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:55 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 70

Don’t you think the White House political office imagines they’ve covered this base with their meeting with progressive bloggers at the end of the mid-terms last year, though? Present were Oliver Willis (big fan of Obama’s) Joe Sudbay (big fan in the primary, major critic now) along with John Amato from Crooks & Liars, Duncan Black (Atrios) from EschatonBlog, and Barbara Morrill (BarbinMD) from DailyKos.

Do you think the political office keeps up communications with these folks (Joe is gay) or simply reads their blogs?

Incidentally, at that meeting, Obama signalled his ‘shift’ on marriage equality:

“I do not intend to make big news sitting here with the five of you, as wonderful as you guys are,” Obama told the bloggers.

“I think it’s a fair question to ask. I think that — I am a strong supporter of civil unions. As you say, I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage,” Obama continued.

“But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine. And I think that it is an issue that I wrestle with and think about because I have a whole host of friends who are in gay partnerships. I have staff members who are in committed, monogamous relationships, who are raising children, who are wonderful parents.”

“And I care about them deeply. And so while I’m not prepared to reverse myself here, sitting in the Roosevelt Room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I think it’s fair to say that it’s something that I think a lot about. That’s probably the best you’ll do out of me today,” he said.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I totally agree, he is really mid-reading “the gays” as isolated and not connected to the entire progressive movement–and even parts of the conservative movement that have openly LGBT family members. It is ironic that some conservative Republicans are in favor of gay marriage and Obama is NOT. And ironic is an understatement.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 73

This is THE most frustrating thing about watching Obama: he seems to think he’s going to convert people to his side who already think he’s a socialist, a Kenyan, a gay-marrier, a Black Panther. Is this new in him as president, or did you always see this in him, the need to reach out to the other side all the while endangering his support among his base?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Obama says he “thinks” about gay marriage a lot–yes that is a good sign, but he knows that is not enough. And it is also in some ways WORSE–because he knows he is wrong. He just can’t figure out a way around the politics.
I know the White House has liaisons to media, including the gay media. They do a good job of sending out specific info whenever a gay issue breaks, or a speech includes gays, or a policy change is made. As a journalist, I feel pretty well informed by the White House. But I do think as Obama runs for re-election, there needs to be more specific outreach to bloggers and media outlets.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:00 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 77

Thanks for sharing this with us here today.

I also heard Kathy Griffin when I first read the title of your book, and am very happy to see her activism on our side recognized, if even obliquely, in your title.

holeybuybull January 23rd, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I think he’s shown that he’s morphed from “The Great Equivocator” to “The Great Capitulator”. Don’t forget that he shared the stage with Donnie “Pray the Gay Away” McClurkin(sp).

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:00 pm
In response to RevBev @ 76

That is an excellent idea.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Obama, as an Illinois state senator and in his short time as U.S. Senator, did a lot of reaching out to the other side. He has always been this way. In Illinois politics it rarely made a difference when Democrats were in the minority, so it’s a similar story. But that reputation did help him get elected as president, his willingness to discuss and debate with those who he disagrees with. That’s a fine role as a candidate. The problem is when you are president, at some point reality sinks in and you have to just move. We have seen signs of this lately, but the question is why did the Democrats squander so much time, when they had the power. That is what frustrates a lot of his strongest supporters.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to holeybuybull @ 83

I can’t imagine the pressure that a politician is under at that level. His approach is to meet with even his enemies, or those who campaign against him, because perhaps the next time they will not be as negative. His campaign did not vet enough of the characters he campaigned with, and this specific one was a mistake recognized too late. The book details a lot of the response around the campaign, especially the race for gay votes between Clinton and Obama, and her own missteps on gay issues.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 74

Kelly, you have a lot of company on this. I understand it for sure. He has a lot of ‘splainin’ to do as he runs for re-election. He can’t rely on the fact that the Republicans may put up a harsh right-winger to do the motivation (of Obama’s base) for him.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Teddy mentioned in his review about the timing of the book–it came out just before DADT was repealed. It does provide a long history of how we got to the repeal. I will be doing a new edition of the book later this year (and updates will be posted online). The website http://www.obamaandthegays.com includes frequent updates on all issues relating to Obama and the gays, including DADT, ENDA, DOMA, immigration and more. So the DADT updates are online.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 85

What’s really frustrating for those of us who began our activism in the 1970s or even earlier (!) is that we may have seen the last chance in our lifetime for actual legislative progress to recognize our civil rights squandered by this White House. The tremendous amount of time devoted to bi-partisanship on health care reform wasted a lot of Congressional energy that might have gone to accomplish needed reforms of DOMA, UAFA, iENDA and other statutory discrimination.

Some of us will die of old age before we’re full and complete participants in American civic society, with the full rights our fellow citizens have. I don’t think you could have convinced me that would be the case now, 40 years on, had I been told that upon graduation from high school (1972).

And with the GOP in control of Congress for who knows how many years, we’ve missed the chance to make things right in our lifetimes. Many activists will never see full citizenship in America. That’s very sad, and some of it is Barack Obama’s fault.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Looking forward (as President Obama has asked his Justice Department to do — the oddest approach to law enforcement I’ve ever heard of):

Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico and likely 2012 candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, supports full marriage equality and marijuana legalization.

Do you think a candidate in the GOP debates for that party’s nomination will generate any pressure on Barack Obama to revisit his positions on these two issues?

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Karen Ocamb has registered to comment here at FDL but is having a hard time actually getting in to comment; she’s asked me to pass along this question for Tracy:

could you tell Tracy thanks for the plug and also ask her how he’ll be different on LGBT rights in the second term?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I don’t disagree that Obama and the Democrats missed their window of time. But I am actually optimistic about LGBT rights, after 26 years of covering our issues. Major success in previous civil-rights movements usually did not come from legislative action, not until the movements were at their peak. And we have yet to peak. rather, much of the success happened in the courts. And while this U.S. Supreme Court is risky for LGBTs, there are some signs of hope at the lower federal courts. And marriage itself might break down that wall at the high court level. Especially the one part of DOMA that says the federal government does not have to recognize a same-sex marriage done in a state. That is a violation that even a conservative Supreme Court may overturn, or let stand a lower court ruling against it. And there are more cases like this in states beyond Massachusetts, and of course the Prop 8 case is moving along. So we still have potential victory in the courts, and we have made some significant progress in some of the states. We HAVE come a long way, baby, in just 40-60 years (nascent gay groups were starting even in the 1920s in the U.S.), compared to the hundreds of years Blacks and women fought for rights.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I do not think there will be a serious top-level Republican candidate for president that can make it through that party’s primary season with a pro-gay record. The gauntlet they have to run to get the nomination only pushes candidates further to the right if they want to have a chance to win in key states. The only way I can see a Republican candidate pushing a Democrat further towards gay rights is if they win their party’s nomination. The primary will not push the other party.

January 23rd, 2011 at 3:14 pm


He has to EARN that from this voter; assuming it is arrogance beyond belief.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:15 pm

If Obama does get a second term, I absolutely believe he will be even stronger on LGBT rights, but of course a lot depends on the House and Senate makeup at that stage. That is no excuse for delaying work on LGBT issues, it is just my feeling that he will be more free to work on more controversial issues without being worried about re-election. Bill Clinton signed DADT and DOMA is his first term–in fact he USED DOMA in many ways to get re-elected in 1996.

egregious January 23rd, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Thank you for this excellent book. Do you think it’s possible that the administration somehow believes they’re doing everything they can? Which of course we hardly could imagine. But it might explain some of the weird behavior.

Elliott January 23rd, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Hi Tracy,

Is there anyone you know of in Obama’s family that is LGBT?

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:16 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 94

Well, I think Karen was probably assuming it for purposes of her question, not necessarily for all of us voters out here.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:19 pm
In response to egregious @ 96

Yes, I do believe they think they are doing all they can, and that they see all they are doing as important, even if some view it as less important. The HUD changes this week, and the hospital visitation, may seem minor, but those were struggles and big accomplishments that impact millions of LGBTs. The healthcare law helps hundreds of thousands living with HIV/AIDS. There are many more example that have just not elevated to the “talking points” level of the LGBT movement as a whole.
Can they do more? Yes, I believe they can, but I also am not a politician or a government employee. I am sure the day to day minutia and politics could best even our strongest allies.

January 23rd, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Considering there are 2 years left in the first term, I’ll save those questions for Karen should she be able to register and comment in time for this salon.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to Elliott @ 97

No, we are not aware at Windy City Times of any close relatives in the Obama family who are openly LGBT. Very close friends, yes.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Tracy, to what motive and to what actors do you ascribe the scrubbing of the WhiteHouse.gov website regarding our issues?

egregious January 23rd, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 99

Thanks Tracy. You raise a good point about hospital visitations and the HUD changes.

January 23rd, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 99

Nope – given the “equivocator” status, this Administration is doing what it thinks it can get away with politically, not all they can actually do.

Language is important here.

Elliott January 23rd, 2011 at 3:24 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 101

makes me wonder what those friends say to him.

what is Michelle’s position on gay rights?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:25 pm

That was just crazy stupid micro-management. The changes were subtle, but clearly meant to paint a less controversial and perhaps more realistic picture of what Obama was going to do. The fact is perhaps less than 1% of the people would even care about what was on that website. But by CHANGING it, it called attention to the change, and was yet another early misstep by the administration. The problem Obama faced coming into office was that he had to prove himself. First, to those who supported Hillary in the primary. Second, to those who were offended (rightly so) by Rick Warren giving the invocation at his inauguration. And third, within months, the bad moves in the Dept. of Justice. So he was back on his heels with our community from before day one. It really was a mis-calculation.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I do think it is important to look at some of the smaller changes, smaller in the media eyes, that have happened. Just take the State Dept. changes alone and they are leap years ahead of anything ever done on LGBT issues internationally. That chapter in the book is particularly emotional, as you realize what a difference a true leader makes. Our state dept. is actually documenting the incredible rights abuses LGBTs face around the world, and trying to make changes to help, thru the UN. There are hundreds of other examples that do impact everyday LGBTs around the world, and in the U.S. It’s just hard to track, and not as “big picture” as DADT. But in fact DADT impacts a relatively small number of people compared to the changes already done across almost every federal agency.
I really am not an apologist for Obama. I did the book because I wanted to just document it all so people had all the info they needed, to decide if it was enough, or not, to support him again.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to Elliott @ 105

Some of there close friends believe that michele might be even stronger on LGBT rights than Barack. That is easy to say since she is not an elected official, but it may true. Similar to rumors that Hillary was more supportive than Bill while he served as president. But the accountability stops at the person elected–so she may have influence, but he is the one we vote for. Maybe she will run for office next?

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Do you have any indication that the DoJ actions — that continue to this day, with the decision to ask the Ninth Appeals Court to stop action on the DADT/LCR case because Congress’s repeal has made the case moot — is due to left-behinds from the Bush years? There was quite a bit of burrowing-in by political appointees who took civil service slots at the end of the previous administration.

Do you think these folks have intentionally messed up Obama’s relationship with The Gays? Or are his own DoJ appointees not clued in? Or is the DoJ so empty at the top because of stalled nominations that Obama and Holder really haven’t got their folks in place yet?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:32 pm

While there are leftovers from Bush and Clinton, I believe Obama has to take responsibility for DOJ actions. He would get credit for wins, he needs to take responsibility for mistakes, too. The whole justice system is weakened by the stalling of appointments by Republicans, so I do agree with that. But the DOJ approach to the DOMA and DADT cases is very perplexing, and something Obama will have to answer to. In fact, I think those appeals are possibly the top concern LGBTs have with the Obama administration, so we need to have much more information coming from Obama himself about this strategy.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Tracy, your book clearly documents the huge progress we’ve made under Obama compared with other presidents, most recently his immediate predecessor who actively campaigned against our civil rights and crafted his re-election campaign around denying us our marriage rights at the state level.

But the impatience remains.

Do you think that LGBT Americans’ disillusionment with Obama’s mixed record of accomplishment will continue to cause estrangement between some of his most fervent 2008 supporters? Do you think we’ll be sitting out the re-election effort?

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Relaying another comment from Karen Ocamb that’s come in via email:

re Kelly – I was referring to Tracy’s comment:

“I think with such a huge system and so many advisers, it is difficult for Obama to actually be the president he would like to be. If he does get a second term, I would expect he will have more freedom to be who he really wants to be.”

You’re right – so much depends on the make up of the Congress – but I was just wondering what you might think that “freedom to be who he really wants to be” might look like.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:35 pm

The LGBT community is so diverse, it is hard to generalize. More than 20% voted for McCain in 2008, and I wonder if those who voted for McCain will continue to support the Republicans as they move even further to the right on social issues.

As for LGBTs who voted for Obama, I have heard quite a range of responses, and in part it depends on race and gender. This is not true across the board, but I find that most African-Americans are very patient with the pace of change under Obama, while some whites, especially those who supported Hillary Clinton, are more likely to say “What would Hillary have done?” However, I do not believe Hillary would have had any more success than Obama on these issues. She would have had similar successes.

There are also a vast number of LGBT Democrats who have been impressed with Obama’s pace of change, and take a longer view of progress than just two years. Many of those interviewed in my book still strongly support Obama and in fact are big donors. Now that DADT has been repealed, that will probably be enough for most to continue to support the president. And of course, a lot will depend on who he is running against. A moderate may cause lower voter turnout, but if the Republicans nominate a true right-winger on social issues, I think most LGBTs will turn out to vote.

But Obama MUSt do a better job at communicating all of these successes on LGBT issues, small and large, to confront the mistakes and missteps (in DOJ especially).

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:37 pm

The main issue on gay rights that Obama keeps “adjusting” on is marriage. He was with us (1996), then against us on political practicality grounds (2004) and then against us on religious grounds (2008). In 2010 he says he is re-thinking this, but can’t quite get the courage up. Well, if he does not prior to 2012, I think he will “find” that courage on gay marriage if he gets a second term.
To those LGBTs losing ground NOW because of the marriage issue (social security, estate taxes, etc.), that is no solution. But politically speaking, I think that is his reality.

Phoenix Woman January 23rd, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Welcome, Tracy!

Tracy, you call Obama “The Great Equivocator”. Yet there is at least one instance where he shows firm determination, and that’s when he’s attacking the people who make up the Democratic base — GLBTs among them. Would you like to discuss this? Is it just more Sister-Souljah-ing as we saw from Clinton, or is there something more at work?

January 23rd, 2011 at 3:40 pm

There are 3 branches of Government, as everyone well knows.

Only Obama is in control of being “the President he wants to be.” And he is doing only what he wishes to do.

That can’t be put upon anybody else, at all.

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 114

Well, if he does not prior to 2012, I think he will “find” that courage on gay marriage if he gets a second term.

But won’t he still have the same political needs as far as getting stuff through Congress that he considers more important as he has now? Why would he change on this when he still has to navigate politically just because he’s not going to run again?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 115

I am not sure I see him “attacking” LGBTs. he may get a bit perturbed when he perceives us as not appreciating what he has done, but I do not see him actively attacking LGBTs. Some would say he is not doing enough, but that is more of a passive thing, not attacking us. Other parts of the progressive base probably have even more to point to, though, such as his lack of backbone on closing Guantanamo, or the lack of progress on environment and other issues. It is more a benign neglect for LGBTs, but again I stress that some of the problem is that the administration has not been good at communicating some of their major successes for LGBT rights.
Can you give an example of something comparable to Sister-Souljah?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:44 pm

The marriage issue will likely never be resolved in Congress, no matter if Obama wins again. It is likely to change in the courts. So you are right, his opinion shift may have little impact in his second term. But he may be willing to use more political capital for controversial causes if not facing re-election.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Yes, that’s true — but what can he possibly accomplish with a Republican House and a Republican Senate, entirely possible after the 2012 elections? In fact, I’d say it’s more likely than his own re-election at this point. Although I expect that will change as the teabaggers lose favor within the GOP for their astringency and devotion to dogma.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:47 pm

This is where the Democrats made their biggest mistake. They were able to take over the House and Senate in recent elections, and the White House, by blaming the Republican-controlled Congress/WH on everything. They campaigned and raised dollars and votes saying that if we control it, we promise you — a million things. That was of course unrealistic. But by making those promises, they have only caused disappointment. So next time, when they ask for money and votes, so they can “take back” Congress — well, a lot of people simply will not believe them. Their two years in control did not fulfill what they said they could do — it was unrealistic, yes, but it is what they promised.

January 23rd, 2011 at 3:50 pm

But we’re going to overlook 2008-2010, and forget 2011-2012?

No way. The future composition of the non-Executive elected branches are immaterial to the position of the Executive. He won’t veto the POS Health Insurance Reform now, will he?

A leader is what a leader is; not the composition of what is around the Leader.

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:50 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 121

The under-30s also have constant reminders from Jon Stewart exactly what was promised and how little was accomplished. None of them voted for Barack Obama to go to DC to fit into the system that existed. He was elected to blow up the boxes, as Arnold called it during the California recall.

Becoming acclimated to the status quo — and using the phrase ‘federal status quo’ when defending DOMA! — has to be one of the most bitter disappointments for those who really expected (“hoped for”) Change.

eCAHNomics January 23rd, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 121

it was unrealistic

Oh really. Look what W ‘accomplished’ in his first 2 years. Completely changed the direction of the U.S. O didn’t ‘do’ it because he didn’t want to .

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Tracy? Did the Obama administration lobby Congress on ENDA in the 111th?

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Yes, Obama does not “get it” that the holy grail of marriage is the one issue that matters most–not because I believe in marriage at all as a government-sponsored institution. It actually is government-sanctioned discrimination against single people (where do THEIR social security and pension benefits go?) It’s an actuarial conspiracy.

Rather, marriage is important because IF you believe in full civil rights for ALL, then how can you possibly say “except those who love someone who happens to be of the same gender”? How can any rational person think this is OK in 2011? So Obama’s big mistake is not seeing that people who see him compromise on gay marriage believe he will sell ANYONE down the river.
This is NOT about same-sex marriage. It is about personal integrity.
I applaud a lot of what has happened in this Obama White House; I simply can not understand how one can compromise their integrity on equality.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:56 pm

The only thing I can speak to on this is what was done in a public way, and there are not indications that Obama’s team lobbied for ENDA. I just do not have the answer to what might have happened behind the scenes–but from my perspective DADT was somehow given the priority after hate-crimes passed. Who made that decision? I am not sure and I am not privy to those compromises made on what route to justice.

January 23rd, 2011 at 3:57 pm
In response to Tracy Baim @ 126

Bingo; that very equivocation on equality itself renders me friendless/ally-less in this Whitehouse.

BevW January 23rd, 2011 at 3:57 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Tracy, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing you new book and President Obama’s relationship with the gay community.

Teddy, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone one if you would like more information:
Tracy’s website and book.

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:57 pm

In my opinion, lack of progress on iENDA was a direct result of the stretched-out consideration of DADT repeal due to the study and survey the Pentagon insisted on and the Administration agreed to. Somewhere, there’s a rule that any “interest group” can only have one bill affecting it in the Congressional chute at one time (military appropriations and weapons systems, of course, exempted). So, Nancy Pelosi kept putting off iENDA, thinking (I suppose) that there would be a chance in the Lame Duck to get it done. DADT was thought to be a slam-dunk, I imagine, until McCain went mental.

It’s really McCain’s fault we don’t have more progress in the latter part of the 111th, although Obama’s bipartisan focus for HCR was the problem in the first part. It’s a sclerotic institution, Congress: no one should plan on them accomplishing anything now, that’s for sure.

Tracy Baim January 23rd, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thanks Bev and Teddy, and everyone else! Great questions.
See http://www.obamaandthegays.com

Teddy Partridge January 23rd, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Thank you, Tracy, and to all who participated this afternoon/evening.

This conversation is far from over — please buy and/or read Tracy Baim’s book and we’ll keep talking about this.

Best wishes to you all.

LibWingofLibWing January 23rd, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Thanks Tracy. Thanks Teddy.

Peterr January 23rd, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Way, way late to the party here, but wow! (It’s been one of those days for me . . .)

Tracy, thanks for quite the discussion of Obama and his record with LGBTs. The book is quite something in its scope, and well worth the read. Sadly, I wish you had a better story to tell than “if Obama win re-election, then he can do better.”

(And Teddy, thanks for the link!)

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