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Tilting at Windmills

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January 5, 2010

RELIGIOUS RIGHT LIVID OVER TRANSGENDER APPOINTEE.... In something of a milestone, President Obama has named Amanda Simpson to be a senior technical advisor to the Commerce Department. That wouldn't be especially noteworthy were it not for the fact that Simpson is one of the first-ever transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, and is a member of the National Center for Transgender Equality's board of directors.

As far as I can tell, the news was largely ignored by Republicans, but Focus on the Family issued a report on this to its membership yesterday. The religious right isn't exactly pleased.

"Is there going to be a transgender quota now in the Obama administration?" asked Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth. "How far does this politics of gay and transgender activism go? Clearly this is an administration that is pandering to the gay lobby." [...]

"We should consider what transgender activism is about," he said," which is essentially recognizing civil rights based on gender confusion."

Matt Barber, associate dean at Liberty University, said the appointment "boggles the mind."

"This isn't like appointing an African-American in order to try to provide diversity and right some kind of discriminatory wrong," he said. "This is about political correctness."

As a substantive matter, this is almost comical. A qualified woman was hired to do a job in government. This woman used to be a man. From this, the religious right raises the specter of "a transgender quota." The notion that Amanda Simpson might actually be the best person for the job, and shouldn't face discrimination, never enters the equation.

But as a political matter, I find it pretty interesting to see the difference in impressions when it comes to President Obama and efforts on issues important to the LGBT community. On the one hand, the religious right sees the White House embracing the politics of gay and transgender activism" and "pandering to the gay lobby." On the other hand, many in the LGBT community see the White House as deeply disappointing, ignoring the issues that matter.

In the long run, I suspect it's the former that will grow angrier. In his first year, the president has presented a package of domestic partnership benefits for federal workers, addressed the diplomatic passport issue, issued a strong Pride Month proclamation, hosted a White House event to honor the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, signed an expanded hate crimes bill into law, lifted the travel/immigration ban on those with HIV/AIDS, and recommitted to do even more. It's not a bad start.

Over the next couple of years, I can only assume Focus on the Family's mailings will grow even more strident. That's probably a good thing.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

Amanda? Really?

Posted by: inkadu on January 5, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Headline: Christians to world: Everyone should become Christian!
Subtext: Just don't become too Christ like.

Posted by: lou on January 5, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

It would appear that Focus on the Family is running out of money faster than anyone expected. They have to gin up "the base" again to raise more money.

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on January 5, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

inkadu,

The embedded pun in the name had eluded me, until reading your comment (Groan). Actually I loves me a good pun, and my bar for "good" puns is well below ground level.

That said, I am also happy that Obama is not shying from transgendered inclusiveness.

...and this is yet another area where we to the left of Obama, though we despair over his lack of more radical actions, should also applaud the effectiveness many of his decisions in moving that "center" gradient of the policy spectrum and the realities of our society at least a bit closer to our preferred position.

Posted by: kleven-stein on January 5, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Remember the rules.

1. be angry
2. be afraid
3. whatever you do, don't think!
4. find someone you can hate

Posted by: Jim Ramsey on January 5, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

The explanation for the difference in impressions is simple:

The LGBT community is basing its fully justified disappointment on actual facts: despite gestures like this appointment, Obama has done nothing substantive to establish full human and civil rights to non-heterosexuals.

The freakazoid community is basing its hallucinatory impression on its knee-jerk, unthinking response to everything Obama does: mooslincommieterristhitlersatanhomo!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Yellow Dog on January 5, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

As to the matter of religious people being more moral than the rest of us (I'm a Protestant Congregationalist who attends a Methodist church), the Roman Catholic Church appears to be trying to canonize a Pope who, really and truly, doesn't deserve such an honor. They want to canonize Pius XII, who allowed the Holocaust to proceed without interference.

Posted by: Rich2506 on January 5, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

I'm all for launching the Pope from a canon, I wonder if "focus on the fuckups" will be attending?

Posted by: Trollopoly on January 5, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Trollopoly, I may adopt your term for FoF. Its the most honest assessment of their mentality.

I am personally disappointed in the progress, or lack there of, in Obama's force to follow through with campaign promises. At least he is embracing the current ebb of society and recognizing people of different orientation versus the rethug position of ridicule and constant dehumanizing the "different".

As long as this woman is the most qualified for the job, there is no reason to bring up sexual orientation or gender choice.
I wish the tighty righties would grow up and at least publicly pretend they aren't the seething assholes they really are.

-if you don't have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut-

Posted by: vwmeggs on January 5, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Focus on the Family crows it is a christian value oriented organization. Well the First Commandment is "Thou shalt love thy LORD thy GOD with all thy HEART and SOUL and MIND. The second commandment is like unto it LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF." If the person has the qualifications then that is what should be considered.

Posted by: MLJohnston on January 5, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

It's unfortunate that Ms Simpson isn't muslim. The batshit brigade could have gotten a twofer.

Posted by: DTR on January 5, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

"One of the first ever"? Who are the others?

Posted by: msmolly on January 5, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

So, did they have any issue with the "Republican quota" instituted by Monica Goodling and others during the Bush administration?

Posted by: Alex on January 5, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Holy shit--did we just catch a prominent right-winger acknowledging that it would be okay to "appoint[] an African-American in order to try to provide diversity and right some kind of discriminatory wrong"?

No, don't tell me, let me guess... he means that would have been okay until 1964, when racism was ended forever.

By the way--msmolly asks,

"One of the first ever"? Who are the others?

and my understanding is that she's the first "out" appointee, but that there might have been others who kept it a secret, so we can never say she was THE first.

Posted by: Matt on January 5, 2010 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

This was my favorite:

"This isn't like appointing an African-American in order to try to provide diversity and right some kind of discriminatory wrong, he said. "This is about political correctness."

In one sentence, he declares that there is no historical "discriminatory wrong," and then declares that if not for "political correctness" the administration ought to discriminate.

Posted by: Redshift on January 5, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

As I recall, there were several openly gay high-level officials in the Commerce Dept (and other agencies) during the Bush years. Didn't hear much whining from the right about that. Don't know about any transgender folks, though.

Posted by: someone with a memory on January 5, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm, does the religious right know that Norm Coleman hired a transgendered woman as his chief of staff in 1996 while he was mayor of St. Paul?

http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/30872369.html

PS: She fit in well with Coleman, gleefully de-funding programs that greatly benefitted St. Paul's neighborhoods.

Posted by: gbear on January 5, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Do you suppose sometimes the Obama Administration (doesn't that sound GOOD?) is just poking 'em with a stick?

Posted by: SYSPROG on January 5, 2010 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Aw, give the Focus people a break. They worked hard to overcome their bias against government appointees born without a penis. Now you want them to accept an appointee who was born with one and got rid of it?

That's expecting quite a lot from our friends on the religious right, don't you think?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on January 5, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Redshift: In other words, "Obama's not discriminating just for the sake of not discriminating!"

Posted by: inkadu on January 5, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Just because the Focus flakes don't like the appointment, doesn't mean this is a big deal. Handouts of biblical proportions to factions of the right, but progressives are supposed to think this appointment shows we are on the right track.

Wasn't Obama more than a little skittish of being seen with those the right considers unacceptable for sexual reasons during the campaign? I guess he discovered that they have their uses. This implies nothing about the relative qualifications of the appointee.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on January 5, 2010 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Clearly this is an administration that is pandering to the gay lobby." i wish the administration would do more than just "pander" but i guess i'm being impatient..."don't ask, don't tell" anyone?

Posted by: dj spellchecka on January 5, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

"Is there going to be a transgender quota now in the Obama administration?" asked Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth.


There *used* to be a quota in the Bush administration. It was zero. Now there is not a quota.

Posted by: Ian on January 5, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'm one of those gays who will challenge the assertion that LGBT won't get as angry as right wing Christians will. We are growing more and more angry by the second.

Obama baseless refusal to follow the orders of a federal judge and provide equal benefits for 9th Circuit Court employees is a final straw for many.

We are angry because of more than just "legitimate disappointment." President Obama has enacted a year long policy of marginalizing and excluding LGBT people from democracy that will be meet by lost money and lost votes!

It's for everyone to learn that LGBT people will not underwrite the Democratic Party in exchange for nothing!

Posted by: LukeJoe on January 5, 2010 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously FoF wants these people to be taken outside and shot, their bodies left to rot.

Seriously these are people and they have a right to exist, get jobs, and contribute.

Posted by: ET on January 5, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth: "How far does this politics of gay and transgender activism go? Clearly this is an administration that is pandering to the gay lobby."

The article author Steve Benen then writes: "The notion that Amanda Simpson might actually be the best person for the job, and shouldn't face discrimination, never enters the equation."

I want to comment: Yes. This! This is exactly the crux of the biscuit. The reactionary ultra-right can't even find it within itself to engage in a dialog that admits to the presumption that the other side is doing an earnest job, and simply disagree with the end results or some particular detail. Instead, they frame the whole discussion with the assumption that the opposition is NEVER doing an earnest job and ONLY operating according to some ulterior motive. We as progressives need to call them out and call them out and KEEP calling them out on this slimy tactic, because it's at the core of why the political dialog has sunk so low.

Posted by: indydave on January 5, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Is there going to be a transgender quota now in the Obama administration?"

Nope. In fact, so far it appears that the Obama administration is appointing people based on their ability to do the job. Is there something wrong with that?

Posted by: josef on January 5, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama is so Pro-Gay, why hasn't he repealed DADT?

Posted by: Jamie on January 5, 2010 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK
If Obama is so Pro-Gay, why hasn't he repealed DADT?

Last I looked, the President doesn't have the Constitutional authority to repeal statutes; that takes an Act of Congress.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 5, 2010 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

John says it better than I could.

While it's nice that the Obama Administration can acknowledge its own self-interest long enough to make a few token gestures to the LGBT community to appear to the untrained observer as though they give a damn, the fact remains that nothing of substance has come out of the Obama Administration on LGBT issues. In fact, all of the opposition to Congressional movement on LGBT issues has come from the White House. Google "Alcee Hastings Don't Ask Don't Tell White House" to start.

Interesting linguistic factoid: Amanda is a Latin name meaning, "one who must be loved." I wish Ms. Simpson all the best in her new career, and all the love in the world. :)

Posted by: Keori on January 5, 2010 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

Prof Lynn Conway was a presidential appointee to the Board of Visitors of the US Air Force Academy in 1996.

"Rep. Jared Polis was appointed earlier this month to the Academy's Board of Visitors, which meets Friday and Saturday in Colorado Springs. He is thought to be the first openly gay member serving on an oversight board at any service academy.

The boards report to Congress and the Pentagon on how the academies are doing, including recommendations for change."

Prod Conway is straight.

Posted by: Zoe Brain on January 6, 2010 at 4:01 AM | PERMALINK

Journalist: Mr. President, the religious community has accused you of pandering to gender politics by appointing Simpson, reportedly transgendered, as an advisor to the Commerce Department. Do you have a comment sir?

Obama: Wait... She's a man? I had no idea, she just had a really good resume. Uh... I mean, yes. We're all about change here. So much so that I meticulously dig through the personal lives of everyone I hire to find insignificant traits that any outspoken fringe groups might find socially unacceptable and demand the public focus on making them feel unwelcome while these people try to do their jobs. Let me tell you, there's a long list of things that cause controversy on this hill, so I've got to get back to it if I want to cover them all.

Posted by: Wiseguy on January 11, 2010 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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