Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama's Open Letter

Top!Secret G-woman rides to the rescue again, just as I was slipping into a mean-and-standard-deviation-incurred catatonic state. Maybe this science stuff would be easier if I had a PhD or something. Anyway. Barack Obama wrote an open letter to us LGBT folk. On the whole, not bad. I'm running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all - a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters. It's wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation... Equality is a moral imperative. That's why throughout my career, I have fought to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans... As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws.

Well, boy howdy. This is the only bit that keeps me from doing backflips:

I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples -- whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage.

As I and about a million other people have pointed out elsewhere, the label the government ultimately settles on for legally recognized same-sex partnerships is irrelevant so long as they are accorded the full spectrum of rights and responsibilities that come with man-woman marriage. Identical. The problem comes when federal law and policy mandate "married" as the qualifying condition for receiving those rights and responsibilities. Witness the problems civilly unioned same-sex couples have encountered in New Jersey, where state benefits managers have asserted no responsibility to extend coverage because policies require a marriage license for eligibility--despite the fact that the civil unions adopted there were intended to be legally fully equal to marriage.

A bigger problem is what happens when certain states decide that the best way to "pursue equality" is to not pursue equality at all. I would hope that Obama, of all the candidates, would be the most acutely aware that championing "states' rights" has historically been a smokescreen for the abnegation of minority groups's civil rights. The sentiments expressed in this letter are going to scare off the ultra social conservatives anyway, so I don't quite understand the need to throw that particular bone out there.

I hope these quibbles are just that--quibbles about semantics--although that would be easier to hope for with a candidate far less careful about his words than Obama. What the hell. It's a start.

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