18 June 2009

The Obama Memo

I am still trying to sort out my thoughts on President Obama's memo granting limited benefits to Federal employees and their same sex partners. On the one hand it is far from enough, in part because it feels like he is throwing us table scraps following our outrage at last week's DOMA fiasco (in which the Justice Department defended the Defense of Marriage Act in a vile and despicable legal brief). On the other hand, the president did reiterate his pledge to overturn DOMA.

Moreover, I can't help but take him at his word when he says that yesterday's memo was the most he could do within the confines of current law (DOMA prevents him from doing anything of substance). It would be hypocritical of me to get too angry at a president who actually follows the rule of law, who understands that if laws need be changed they should be changed via Congress. I argued for eight long years that George W. Bush wasn't above the law, that his executive orders, "signing statements," and abuses of power were unconstitutional and grounds for impeachment. My views on those matters haven't changed because a Democrat is now president.

Yes, even if that president refuses to abuse his power to benefit the LGBT community.

That said, I wish congress would act on DOMA (and Don't Ask, Don't Tell). If history is any indication, the Democrats will lose a few congressional seats in the 2010 elections. They should act on these two important issues while they still have decent numbers in the Senate.

The president has promised to back and sign such legislation. We will all hold him to his word.

UPDATE: Matt Steingalass, thinking out loud on why the President might be dragging his feet...
I just wanted to point out that this has always been Obama’s MO. He’s always a step or two behind where his supporters want him to be, getting pulled along by their enthusiasm, rather than out ahead of them where he might get cut off. It’s a community organizer’s MO. You never get out ahead of your constituency. Instead you shape the playing field so that your constituency’s desires flow towards where you think they should go, and allow them to carry you along behind them.
UPDATE #2: Video of Mr. Obama signing the memo...