Yesterday I wrote about President-elect Obama’s mistake in choosing homophobic far-right christianist Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. If you believed what some gay activists and bloggers have been saying, Obama has morphed into another Bush. Those people need to get a grip.
Which is not say they don’t have some valid points. For example, activists are right that GLBT concerns and issues aren’t taken as seriously by the new Administration as other minorities’ are. Also, there are no out-gay or lesbian people in Obama’s cabinet. Let’s contrast these two with the Bush-Cheney regime: Not only did they not pay any attention to GLBT issues, they did everything in their power to make things worse for us. A current example is the US opposing the UN’s gay rights resolution: Some State Department staff wanted the US to back it, but Bush-Cheney’s “pro-family” appointees made sure the US opposed it.
In my opinion—and it’s just that—there was never any real possibility that an out-gay or lesbian person would be appointed to the Cabinet. It was rumoured that lesbian labour activist Mary Beth Maxwell might be appointed Secretary of Labor, but I wonder if that was just a kind of wishful-thinking. Nancy Sutley was appointed chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality and some media said she was the first prominent, out-gay or lesbian person to join Obama’s cabinet—but that’s hardly a cabinet or even cabinet-level position. It’s also important to remember that very often Secretaries have little power, and often these “lesser” positions have a lot of power. Needless to say, there would never even be a rumour of an out-gay or lesbian cabinet official for any Republican.
Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, has an anti-gay voting record. He voted to enshrine a “one man, one woman” definition of marriage in the Constitution twice, he voted to ban gay adoptions in the District of Columbia, he voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and he twice voted against the Uniting American Families Act which would have allowed US citizens to bring their non-US citizen partners into the US, a law that would affect people like me. This is part of his solidly conservative voting record, including being completely anti-abortion and against stem-cell research, for example.
As Secretary of Transportation, however, LaHood won’t be working on any of these issues. It has been suggested that if Obama is to get Congress to pass the biggest transportation infrastructure legislation since Eisenhower’s interstate highway program, he’ll need a legislative insider respected by both parties. So, LaHood’s anti-GLBT record is irrelevant, especially because he was never a leader on any of those issues—he just voted the wrong way on them.
So, what do we get in the new Administration? We have mostly good, competent and fair-minded people, and a few who are well behind the times on social issues. There’s a mix of races, genders and parties—and arguably even ideology within those parties. What we have, in other words, is an Administration that looks more like America than the one that’s about to leave. If President Obama is to win the support of all Americans, and not just those on the centre and left, then not all of his appointees can be expected to pass our litmus tests. That’s politics.
The issue of Rick Warren, however, is completely different due to the huge symbolic message it sends out. That’s a mistake that I can’t—and won’t—defend. I’m disappointed about the speaking role for Warren, but you know what? I’ll glady take this Administration after eight years with nothing but disappointment over and over again. The reality is that even with these disappointments, the worst day of the Obama-Biden Administration will be far, far better than the best day of the outgoing one. Not even Rick Warren can change that.