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Tilting at Windmills

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June 22, 2010

ANOTHER STEP FORWARD ON GAY RIGHTS.... The pace hasn't always kept up with the hopes of supporters, but it's hard not to notice that the Obama administration's record on advances in gay rights keeps improving.

President Obama will soon expand the rights of gay workers by allowing them to take family and medical leave to care for sick or newborn children of same-sex partners, administration officials said Monday.

The policy will be set forth in a ruling to be issued Wednesday by the Labor Department's wage and hour division, the officials said.

Under a 1993 law, people who work for a company with 50 or more employees are generally entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or for a spouse, son or daughter with "a serious health condition."

The new ruling indicates that an employee in a same-sex relationship can qualify for leave to care for the child of his or her partner, even if the worker has not legally adopted the child.

The Obama administration's move on this follows legislative progress on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," hospital visitation rights, a package of domestic partnership benefits for federal workers, lifting the travel/immigration ban on those with HIV/AIDS, expanded hate-crime laws, addressing the diplomatic passport issue, ordering the Federal Housing Authority to no longer consider the sexual orientation of applicants on loans, expanding the Census to include the number of people who report being in a same-sex relationship, and endorsing the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and making the Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act law.

There have also been more symbolic gestures, including the White House hosting an event to honor the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Tonight, Obama will host a Gay and Lesbian Pride Month event at the White House for the second year in a row, and over the weekend, in his Father's Day statement, the president noted that "nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a stepfather, a grandfather, or caring guardian."

For religious right groups hoping to label Obama our "first gay president," the criticism will likely get more intense.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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It's hard to be impressed with this move by Obama. We're given the same rights as heterosexuals when we demonstrate heterosexuality in having a child. It's nice for those gays that go that route, having biological kids, but for most of us it's just another distraction from recognizing the inherent equality of all committed relationships.

In short, Clinton should have done this fifteen years ago. It's long past due. No extra points to Obama for something he could have done his first week in office.

Posted by: NealB on June 22, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Dude, Neal. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

It's a wonder Progressives have any power at all. OH WAIT.

Posted by: Kenneth Cavness on June 22, 2010 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

This will, of course, mark the end of the world.

Seriously, though, if people really wanted to 'preserve the sanctity of marriage,' the best thing that they could do would be to ban no-fault divorce.


Posted by: Zorro on June 22, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Really? Do you really think the President deserves credit for finally getting around to granting these rights? Something, as Neal says, he could have done his first week in office? Something that the next Republican president will wipe out HIS first week in office?

Hey, congrats Mr. President. What took you so damn long?

Posted by: stakkalee on June 22, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

You're missing the point. Everybody knows it's the right thing to do, but most ignore the political damage a president opens himself/herself up to by doing it. You can't sign progressive legislation if you're not in office, and few would remain in office very long if they used their position to charge around doing the right thing everywhere. Doing the right thing often gets in the face of powerful special-interest groups who already didn't like you much; this initiative is a good example. Getting progressive legislation on the books is a balancing act.

Maybe the people who are disenchanted with Obama because he isn't addressing their personal wishes fast enough need another 4 years under the Republicans to smarten them the hell up. Nothing like a few years of colour-coded alerts, email snooping, telephone monitoring and politicizing of every public office by packing them with idealistic cronies to make you long for a change.

Posted by: Mark on June 22, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

You're right - we wouldn't want the people who hate the president to go around hating the president, would we? I mean, if the people who hate him went around hating him and not cooperating, we'd never get anything done! Better to go along to get along, not getting anything done, while the people who vote for you get more and more disenchanted. That there is surefire recipe for electoral success!

I want to point out, you can't sign progressive legislation if you don't take steps to push for that progressive legislation, either. "Aim low" is not a long-term successful strategy. But hey, it's not your ox getting gored, is it? We'd all better sit down and shut up, or else we won't get that progressive legislation we've been promised. Any minute now. Yep, any minute...

Posted by: stakkalee on June 22, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, the administration has been fighting the department of labor over this, and has finally stopped fighting. Hooray?

Posted by: gex on June 22, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

This post should at least mention that while gay parents can now take care of their partners sick kids, they still don't get time off to take care of sick partner. This also is another example of the WH trying to frame an interpretation of Fed law that extends to straights as well and that was already followed in many cases (non-legal guardians who act in a parental capacity have always been allowed FMLA time) as a big victory for gays. No dice.

Posted by: glog on June 22, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, Kenneth, this is the least of the things Obama's damned for. And what the hell do I care about Obama? I care about issues. About results. His fate concerns me not one bit. He's proven time and time and time again in his 18 months as president that he cares nothing for average Americans that voted him into office. These little publicity stunts don't end the war, as promised, don't create jobs, as promised, don't deliver health care reform, as promised, and certainly don't advance civil rights, as promised.

What do you want? Aside from everyone to adore the man, Obama?

He was elected by 52% of voters. Democrats, simultaneously boosted their majorities in Congress to nearly 2/3 of the House and 60% of the Senate--and Obama bailed on his responsibilities to move like hell and push the agenda he ran on. From the economy, to the war, to health care, to you-name-it, he's spent he energy and our votes catering to conservatives. Calling him untrustworthy is too kind; he's a fraud.

So, Dude, yes he's damned. The worst damned Democratic president of my life--and well on his way to becoming one of the worst presidents of either party since Hoover.

Posted by: NealB on June 22, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

First gay US president? Do we forget James Buchanan so easily?

Posted by: CDRealist on June 22, 2010 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

NealB: That is ridiculous. No, really, I just don't have much else to say about it. It goes so far beyond hyberbole that it reaches the level of outright lie.

Posted by: Kenneth Cavness on June 22, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

10% Unemployment as far as the eye can see, Kenneth. That's the stultifying truth of Obama's presidency 18 months on.

Posted by: NealB on June 22, 2010 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yes. 18 months on. After a recession that started BEFORE Obama became president and was barely kept from becoming outright depression. Good grief, peoples' memories are fickle, especially when those memories don't fit in with their narrative.

Posted by: Kenneth Cavness on June 23, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK



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