Money talks, you-know-what walks.
President Obama will apparently prove that adage Wednesday. According to published reports, that's when the administration will extend federal benefits to partners of unmarried federal employees. Only problem with this basic "domestic partners" regulation on the federal level is the timing.
This move comes at the end of several-weeks of frustration with the president's perceived abandonment of thier community by gay advocates. Obama had promised to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," but has yet to tackle it. After the way gays-in-the-military tripped up Bill Clinton 16 years ago, gays might have been ready to let Obama take his time overturning that policy. That wasn't the case, however, with the administration's unexpected defense of, well, the Defense of Marriage Act. In a court brief last week, the administration lumped gay marriage with incest and pedophilia as the various unions that states should have the power to ban.
Following that, Obama's gay support began to show cracks: The head of the Human Rights Fund wrote the White House sharing the impact of the DOMA brief: “I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones.”
While that organization was polite in demonstrating its disappointment, others preferred to go further and put their money where their mouths were -- or, more accurately, remove their money. In protest of the court brief, several gay fundraisers on Tuesday announced that they would boycott the Democratic National Committee's fundraiser next week.
And so, it is only after the boycott started to get some traction that the White started leaking Obama's on federal benefits.
Question is: Will that suffice to Obama's supporters -- gay and otherwise?
After all, it is, relatively speaking, very thin gruel: Ten or 15 years ago, this would have been seen as a dramatically bold step -- especially given what happened to Clinton with gays in the military. But since that time, many municipalities and -- even more significantly -- large companies across the country offer de facto domestic partnership recognition. Don't expect much of a public outcry over this presidential action.
But, more importantly, this doesn't look like a profile in courage for Obama to go do this -- only after fundraisers start to balk. And consider how weak this seems. When six states have actual gay marriage, and many others are fully engaged in the debate, the best the president can do is issue an executive order that puts the federal government on equal footing with more than half of the Fortune 500 companies? Unlike when President Truman de-segregated the Army (yes, an inexact comparison), the federal government is trailing the private sector. Indeed, Obama is even trailing his own secretary of state! (Hillary Clinton announced a few weeks ago that this would be the policy of the State Department).
But, once again, this executive order comes after this administration has submitted a court brief likening gay marriage to an incestuous relationship.
Would the president's supporters be wrong if they considered this a case of too little, too late?