Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Andrew Tobias Lists Accomplishments of Administration and Congress

Andrew TobiasImage via WikipediaAndrew Tobias, Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, put out a list of accomplishments made by President Obama earlier this year. He just revised the list to cover the first two years of the Obama administration and Congress. Tobias, an openly gay man has been trying to make the case to the LGBT community to continue to give it's time, money and support to both Obama and the Democratic party. This has been more difficult than Tobias may have guessed. The LGBT community has been one of the most vocal on the left about not seeing the progress being made toward equality. Many have called for the community to stop giving to the Democratic part and some have gone as far as saying not to vote for Dems.

You can see Tobias' updated list in full here at but I am going to go through some of the highlights here.

Tobias divided the accomplishments into three sections. The first one covered are the federal legislations signed into law. There are three things listed - signing of Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signing of Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the signing of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act. While our community was hoping to get the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed and the Defense of Marriage Act overturned let's be real. No one knew the Republicans were going to put the government at a standstill. Not to mention that the country was begging for the economy to be addressed and health care reform took FOREVER! To get Hate Crimes, a 10 project, and the repeal of DADT, a 17 year project, is impressive in my opinion. Just because we have a President that will sign legislation we want doesn't mean he can put it on his desk himself.

In the second section Tobias discusses the policies that were changed. I am going to quote a few of my top choices out of the 18 he has listed.
  • Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees in 2009 and, further in 2010
  • Banned job discrimination based on gender identity throughout the Federal government (the nation's largest employer)
  • Instructed HHS to require any hospital receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds (virtually all hospitals) to allow LGBT visitation rights
  • Lifted the HIV Entry Ban effective January 2010
As we have seen the private sector is key to making changes for equality. Businesses providing benefits and having non-discrimination policies are one of the leading factors toward passing ENDA. Now the nation's largest employer has policies in place that many of the fortune 500 companies have. These policy changes are an example of Obama using his power to help set the tone of how he expects things to run. This sends a message to Congress that he would like all LGBT Americans to have these same rights. While losing the House of Representatives to the Republicans looks like we will not be getting any LGBT bills passed in the next two years we can hope the 2012 Presidential election will bring the Dems back into power. These policy changes along with continuous education of elected officials and the American people will help us pass ENDA in Obama's second term.

The final section Tobias calls Respect and Inclusion. While this section discusses 27 ways Obama has included the LGBT community in various awards, speeches and appointees there are a few things to highlight.

  • Hired more openly LGBT officials in its first two years -- more than 150, including more than 20 "Senate-confirmables" -- than any previous administration hired in four years or eight
  • Appointed Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, instead of conservatives who would have tilted the Court even further to the right and virtually doomed our rights for a generation.
  • Named open transgender appointees (the first President ever to do so)
  • Dispatched the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to call on the Senate to repeal Don't Ask / Don't Tell
  • Appointed long-time equality champion Chai Feldblum one of the four Commissioners of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The last one is the one I want to comment on as it is again a sign of Obama planning ahead for the fight on ENDA. The appointment of Chai Feldblum will be an asset when we are able to move this issue forward. Obama has publicly stated multiple times he wants to see ENDA pass. This appointment is another sign of that commitment.

We can argue all we want about whether the LGBT community got everything it could in the last two years. If we think we could have gotten more then we must examine where the failures were and make adjustments for the next time. Let's face it, the LGBT community is more used to playing defense than it is offense. We may not have brought our 'A' game but I believe we got a lot in the last two years. I am excited to see what could happen in the next two, even with a Republican controlled House. There is work that can be done in the states to move Marriage Equality forward so when the time comes we will be ready to overturn DOMA. There is a lot of education that can be done on ENDA both in Congress and in the states. Also, we must concentrate on making sure there are candidates worth voting for in 2012 that will help us with ENDA and Marriage Equality.

These two years will set up the Presidential race. What will our list of accomplishments look like from now until the 2012 election? Will we have a list as long of work we as a community did to strengthen our position to play offense? Or will our community continue to play armchair quarterback and just complain after the fact?

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