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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Obama 2012 and the Gay Rights Movement: Opinion

Obama annouces his decision on ABC News
I have numerous discussions with people in recent days about the impact or lack there of of President Obama's recent declaration of support for full same sex marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in America. While listening to major American news outlets people were hailing it a brave decision, his support was never doubted but to fully come out in favour of the proposition will undoubtedly lose some of his support in key swing states not least of all North Carolina, a state which repealed all legal rights between same sex couples to marry or engage in any civil partnerships on the 8th of this month.

However, many of my friends have chosen to take this decision cynically, saying it was needed to shore up the gay vote and that it will result in an influx of money into the campaign from gay rights backers. Let me address why I think both of these points are flawed.
Firstly, let us look at the gay rights record of the Obama administration. He has repealed don't ask don't tell, the controversial policy forbidding gay military members from serving openly. He has extended rights to the same sex partners of federal workers and instructed the federal housing authority to ignore the sexuality of applicants applying for federal housing loans. He has also lifted immigration and travel bans on those living with HIV and AIDS and signed into law hate crime legislation. Under his guidance the Office of the Secretary of State has been guided to carry out work abroad taking into account the rights of LGBT citizens internationally. This administration has been the most pro-gay rights administration in the history of the nation and in a country where abortion rights are regressing and the arc of civil liberties does not always swing toward the progressive agenda this is no mean feat.

How will his vote effect his support amongst African Americans?
According to Fox News the announcement has net the Obama campaign 21 million dollars since his endorsement.  (although this period included the much hyped George Clooney fundraiser). But it is important to remember that Republicans have been consistently bring up the idea tha Obama will have 1 billion dollars in his coffers to spend on the campaign, a figure Romney could only dream of. It seems ridiculous to me that Obama would risk swing states for whatever money such an endorsement would earn him. 

But there are two further great arguments as to why this endorsement should no be taken cynically. Firstly,  Obama's most loyal supporters are African Americans, with 95% of voters in this demographic voting for Mr Obama (daily mail). This group is also one of the most staunchly anti-gay constituencies in the nation. Why risk alienating some of your most die-hard supporters unless it was something you didn't believe in .

Gay Marriage Backer Dick Cheney
Finally, it seems remiss to not mention the President's oposition as the most important reason why he has no competition for the gay vote. The Republican party has established itself bar a few notable defectors (Dick Cheney springs to mind) as an anti-gay rights party. The majority of the Republican primary contender field supported a federal amendment to define marriage as between a man and wife. This remains the stated position of Mitt Romney and thus is about as appealing to gay voters as a weekend with a  member of the Westboro Baptist Church

Cynicism in politics is always the easiest avenue to take especially for the propagation of our own ideologies.  There will always be those who are unhappy with current government and these tensions ill always be heightened in a system as polarised as that of America. However, no matter if we don't agree with his policies if you are a gay rights activist you have no right to claim this move cynical unless you realise Barrack Obama's administration as the most pro-life of any to date. While some will say he is not outspoken enough on the issue we must not forget the role no matter who unwarranted pragmatism plays in politics and the fringe groups who's small chorus of voices all too often drown out the whispers of the majority. 

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