Day 88 - President Obama - Stick to the plan please!

Updated: 6/4/09 10:08 AM EDT

Gay rights protesters demonstrate.
Gay rights campaigners have begun to voice their public frustration with Obama's inaction and deafening silence on what they see as the signal civil rights issue of this era. Photo: AP

President Barack Obama’s promises of change are falling short for one core Democratic constituency: gays and lesbians, whose leaders say Obama’s administration isn’t keeping up with the times.

Gay rights campaigners, most of them Democrats who supported Obama in November, have begun to voice their public frustration with Obama’s inaction, small jokes at their community’s expense and deafening silence on what they see as the signal civil rights issue of this era.

His most important campaign promises repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and the military ban on openly gay and lesbian service-members have not been fulfilled.

And the news, which emerged quietly earlier this year, that he’d supported same-sex marriage back in 1996, then changed his mind, especially rankles. As mainstream Democratic politicians such as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) move to support same-sex marriage, gay rights advocates say that the barrier-breaking president looks increasingly odd for opposing what they see as full equality.

“Obama is out of step with his party, which is overwhelmingly in favor of marriage at this stage,” said David Mixner, a veteran gay rights activist who is among the organizers of a march on Washington for same-sex marriage scheduled for this fall. “He’s out of step with the next generation.”

Gay rights issues have been moving at breakneck speed, none faster than same-sex marriage. Most public opinion polls now show more than 40 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, seen as a fringe issue just a few years earlier. Already, five New England states and Iowa have same-sex marriage laws on the books.

“Politicians are finding out that their voters are moving faster than they anticipated,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who called Obama’s place behind that curve “surprising, because he is the next-generational candidate.”

She noted that Obama could be concerned about alienating older voters in the Midwest who would be turned off if he came out in support of same-sex marriage.

The White House has been reluctant to spend its political capital pushing Obama’s highest-profile pro-gay positions believing, White House allies say, that it could detract from priorities like health care. And it may be even less likely to do next year, with midterms approaching.

But officials have told restive gays and lesbians to give them until the end of this month to show movement on a number of lower-profile issues they support, including restrictions on visas for people with HIV. The Pentagon also has toned down public opposition to reversing the gay ban, and the new secretary of the Army’s job will be, in part, to smooth the way for that move.

“The president remains fully committed to advancing LGBT rights. His positions on all of these issues are well-established and well-known. His staff continues to work with Congress on a variety of LGBT issues,” said Jim Messina, the deputy White House chief of staff who is the point man on gay and lesbian issues, citing White House efforts to move hate crimes legislation through the Senate. “While we recognize that some in the community are anxious, the president’s commitment has not wavered.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23328.html#ixzz0HUkkeObD&B

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