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Posts Tagged ‘obama’

Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  Despite Obama’s election, in the past year events have occurred that have made me question how long women will continue to enjoy the right to choose.  The murder of Dr. Tiller continues to disturb me – knowing that there are people in this country who have so much disrespect for women and those who seek to protect their bodily integrity and freedom.  Yet I also remember that even with Roe v. Wade (mostly) in tact, there are many women in this country who, because of the color of their skin or the amount of money in their bank accounts, do not currently enjoy the same choices as women who have the “right” skin color or enough money to pay for their choices.  As we continue to fight to protect our right to choose, we must remember that there are many of us who have had choices taken away already.  We must not only fight to prevent losing rights but to restore the rights that no longer exist.

The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts has also reminded me that we must not be single-minded. Advocating for women does not only mean advocating for abortion rights. It means paying attention to the candidates who will be making policies, not just health policies, but education and financial policies, that affect women.  I truly hope that the left-leaning community can find more coherence and start helping Obama create the change he promised, and I hope that on this day next year I will be more optimistic about Roe v. Wade’s legacy.

Read more about the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on feministing and feministe.

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Will Phillips is a 10-year-old 5th grader in West Fork, Arkansas who refuses to stand up and say the pledge of allegiance at school (Arkansas Times article here). His reason? LGBT people do not have the same rights as other people, and as he says “I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.” Let me just reiterate two important points: (a) he’s 10 and (b) he lives in Arkansas. This brilliant 10-year-old wants to be a lawyer when he grows up, and to him freedom of speech means “The freedom to disagree. That’s what I think pretty much being an American represents.” His parents, who also sound like amazing people, are totally supportive of Will and are not trying to stifle him or prevent him from speaking out at all. Unfortunately for all of his bravery, Will is facing homophobic teasing from his classmates and threats from homophobics everywhere.

I think we can all learn a big lesson from Will. At 10, this little boy has more courage than many (or most) adults in this country. He has the courage to act against the beliefs of his teachers, classmates, and many in his community, because he truly believes that we, as Americans, are not living up to the meaning of the pledge of allegiance. Will deserves our full support, and he has something to teach all of us. If we all started acting like this on a regular basis, people will start to notice and change may just start to happen even faster. I hope Obama learns a lesson from Will as well – that if one little boy can stand up (or sit down as the case may be) against so much evil in this world, then the President of the United States can certainly push back against the conservatives who are trying to keep him from making policies that support the rights of women and the LGBT community in this country. Furthermore, Will is also sending a message of hope to all of the LGBT youth in this country who may be afraid to speak our or reveal their dissatisfaction with their lack of rights.

I am in awe of this little boy, and I hope that we all can start following in his example by questioning authority and refusing to participate in certain “patriotic” acts just because we are told we have to.

Watch Will (and see for yourself how brilliant and fabulous he is) on CNN:

Read Kate Kendell’s post about him here.

You can become a fan of him on facebook here.

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imagesThere is nothing that angers me more than men making decisions that greatly affect the choices of women. When it happened with the partial birth abortion ban, we all were quick to attribute the awful decision to Bush being in the White House, but now Obama is here, and nothing has really changed.

The Stupak Amendment, which was added to the healthcare bill, which just passed in the House, prohibits anyone receiving federal health care coverage from buying plans that cover abortion. This means that it will be even harder for women to access abortion.

I am not going to spend this post talking about all the reasons why a woman might need an abortion that go beyond the “irresponsible, unprotected sex” narrative. And, never having had an abortion, I certainly don’t feel that ist is my place to explain how abortion is not a decision that most women take lightly – there are many people who have explained it more eloquently and truthfully than I can. Instead, I would like to take a minute to point out that political moves like the Stupak Amendment demonstrate exactly why women are still considered second class citizens, women’s bodies still are considered to be of much less value than men’s, and that we have a far way to go before women truly have equality in this country. Men should not be making these decisions, and men should certainly not be writing these amendments and arguing that women should not be having an abortion. Until men can get pregnant, they will have no idea what it feels like to have bodily autonomy slowly stripped away.

I know that this healthcare bill, if it is enacted, will be an incredible step forward, but I am sick of women being the casualties of “progress.” I sincerely hope that while the bill is debated in the Senate women (and our pro-choice male allies) continue to push for this amendment to be removed, to not continue to make sacrifices that compromise the autonomy of women in this country. And, I hope that Obama takes a stand against this amendment. I have yet to be convinced that he truly meant what he said during his campaign. I have yet to believe that he will dedicate any greater attention to women in this country than presidents in the past.  I still have hope, but if this bill passes in the Senate with the Stupak amendment in tact, I will certainly not be celebrating, because it will just mean that I do not merit the same respect as my fellow male citizens.

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This afternoon Obama signed the new Act to Prevent Hate Crimes. This is Obama’s first big LGBT rights move.  I sincerely hope it won’t be his last.

Read a statement from major gay rights organization here.

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I’m just going to post the NCLR Press Release, because it explains this wonderful news much more eloquently than I can.

THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR LESBIAN RIGHTS APPLAUDS FINAL PASSAGE of HATE CRIMES BILL

(Washington, DC, October 22, 2009) — Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) applauds the United States Senate for final passage of the hate crimes bill, now known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Department of Defense conference report was approved with the hate crimes bill provisions included by a vote of 68-29; earlier in the day Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii cast the final affirmative vote on a procedural motion to limit debate that cleared the last hurdle to final passage as an honor to his long service to the Senate. The conference report accompanies H.R.2647, the underlying Department of Defense Authorization bill. The measure now heads to President Obama for his signature.

The hate crimes legislation gives the Justice Department the authority to fully investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes where the victim has been targeted because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. President Barack Obama has vowed to sign the bill.

“We thank the Senate—indeed the full Congress—for passing the hate crimes bill, and especially those who provided strong leadership on this measure,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “My heart is very full today as I think of families who have lost loved ones, of Senator Kennedy, who championed this bill for so many years, and also as I imagine all those who may be saved by this measure. I look forward to President Obama swiftly signing this measure into law.” 

On October 8, 2009, the United States House of Representatives voted 281-146 in favor of a joint House-Senate “conference report” on a defense authorization measure that also includes provisions that would expand the definition of federal hate crimes to cover attacks based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and military service.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 28, 2009 by the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), among others. At the June 25, 2009 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified that the Obama administration strongly supported the bill, stating, “The President and I seek swift passage of this legislation because hate crimes victimize not only individuals, but entire communities.”

 NCLR has long supported passage of this key measure, assisting with drafting bill provisions, drawing public attention to the problem of hate violence and the need for hate crimes legislation, and providing grassroots support necessary for its passage.

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A Nobel Peace Prize, Really?

Okay, I am a big Obama fan. I think it’s great that our country came together to vote him into office. I think it’s amazing to finally have a leader who is respected internationally, and who actually knows what he’s talking about when he gets to the podium. But, a Nobel Peace Prize?! He makes great speeches and he has great goals, but what has he actually done?  As the writers at The Frisky point out, he is far behind the accomplishments of the other American presidents who won Nobels. I also find it incredibly troubling that he is being given this award when he has yet to make good on some of his campaign promises. The healthcare debate is a mess. Our education system is a mess. We still have Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I think the mark of a good president is not only how he deals with international crises, but how he responds to the smaller battles that are being fought domestically. I sincerely hope that this award will prove to be a rallying cry – encouraging him to step up to the plate and take some real action.

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DOMA to be Repealed?

The Respect for Marriage Act was introduced in the House, which would repeal DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) which provides federal recognition for heterosexual married couples only.

As Kate Kendell at the NCLR explains:

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal both sections 2 and 3 of DOMA. Section 2 creates an exception to the full faith and credit clause for married same-sex couples. The Respect for Marriage Act would eliminate that provision, but it would leave each state free to decide whether to recognize marriages of same-sex couples from other states. Section 3 excludes same-sex spouses from all federal benefits and protections, including Social Security survivor benefits, the right to file joint taxes, and the right to petition for permanent residence for a foreign spouse. The Respect for Marriage Act would require that the federal government treat all married couples equally.


Our friend and partner Jason Bartlett from the National Black Justice Coalition reminds us of what exactly DOMA has meant for our community. “DOMA is an egregious piece of legislation as it codifies discrimination into federal law. As African Americans, we know all too well the injustices that laws such as this impose on our communities and our families and we are sensitive to the federal government trying to define our families. Let us consign the mistakes of the past to history and move forward together. We call on Congress to pass the Respect to Marriage Act as we continue to fight for our civil rights.”


NCLR is proud to have worked in close cooperation with other groups and lead co-sponsors to help define the scope of the bill to repeal DOMA and to secure federal respect for the marriages of same-sex couples. We support the legislative repeal, as well as the legal overturn, of DOMA.
President Obama has made it clear that he, too, supports an end to DOMA. On June 17, 2009, President Barack Obama said, “I stand by my long-standing commitment to work with Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. It’s discriminatory, it interferes with states’ rights, and it’s time we overturned it.” The President most recently reiterated his support for the repeal of DOMA in an August 17, 2009 White House statement.

This may be a long shot, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. After all, with Obama in the White House, there’s really no excuse for keeping DOMA on the books. It will be a great year if the Respect for Marriage Act and ENDA both get passed.

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Just a quick post, even though I know I’ve been particularly bad about posting lately. I’m heading back to CA today, and once I get there I promise I’ll start blogging more regularly.

I questioned the NY Times’ motto this morning (“All the news that’s fit to print”) when I read this article about how potbellies are the new hip fashion statement among the Brooklyn hipster set.  The article explains that many of these Brooklyn hipsters are sporting potbellies with their v-neck t-shirts, fedoras, and ray-bans.  The article suggests that this new devil-may-care attitude about body image might be a reaction to Obama’s passion for exercise and health, as hipsters, according to the article, like to be contrarian.

Personally, I could care less what the hipsters are wearing these days, but what bothered me about this article was how quickly the author dismissed the fact that men don’t have to care nearly as much about their body image as women do:

Women have almost never gotten a pass on the need to maintain their bodies, while men always have, said Robert Morea, a personal fitness trainer. (Full disclosure: my own.) It would be too much, he added, to suggest that “potbellies are suddenly O.K.,” but as lean muscle and functionality become the new gym mantras, hypertrophied He-Men with grapefruit biceps and blister-pack abs have come to resemble specimens from a diorama of “A Vanished World.”

The Times could have at least taken a moment to explore this phenomenon, or at least taken a moment to suggest that maybe potbellies aren’t the new fashion accessory to strive for. Not to mention that Obama’s emphasis on physical health is something that everyone in this country should be emulating rather than rebelling against.

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Just a quick follow up to my last post. Frank Rich wrote a great op-ed for the NY Times about Obama’s inaction when it comes to LGBT rights.  This piece says it all.

Just a snippet:

No president possesses that magic wand, but Obama’s inaction on gay civil rights is striking. So is his utterly uncharacteristic inarticulateness. The Justice Department brief defending DOMA has spoken louder for this president than any of his own words on the subject. Chrisler noted that he has given major speeches on race, on abortion and to the Muslim world. “People are waiting for that passionate speech from him on equal rights,” she said, “and the time is now.”

Action would be even better. It’s a press cliché that “gay supporters” are disappointed with Obama, but we should all be. Gay Americans aren’t just another political special interest group. They are Americans who are actively discriminated against by federal laws. If the president is to properly honor the memory of Stonewall, he should get up to speed on what happened there 40 years ago, when courageous kids who had nothing, not even a public acknowledgment of their existence, stood up to make history happen in the least likely of places.

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This weekend is Gay Pride in NYC. While it’s great to celebrate the progress we have made, I can’t help but feel some amount of sadness on how far we haven’t come.

Jaclyn Friedman at The American Prospect wrote a great piece about the real legacy of Stonewall.  She writes:

Then there’s our relationship with President Barack Obama. We cling to him like we’re his abused and co-dependent boyfriend, swooning over his Pride Proclamation and endlessly pre-excusing him (He’s just busy! He’s waiting for his moment!) for his total inaction on our behalf. And when he hits us with a Department of Justice document defending marriage discrimination and equating homosexuality with incest, we quickly crawl back into bed with him as soon as he apologizes with a bouquet of limited benefits for federal employees and the vague possibility of hate-crimes legislation.

I appreciate all that President Obama has done and is doing to try to get this country back on track after 8 horrific years, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we should merely lie back and assume he is going to do everything. Where is the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Why does he insist on keeping DOMA in place? Gay Pride month is great, but a simple proclamation is not going to do anything to diminish the hate, violence, and injustice that the gay community experiences on a daily basis.

I hope it won’t take another 40 years to see some real, tangible change.

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