06/21/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
President Barack Obama is trying to do diplomacy with the LGBT Community as the issues that define the struggle for equality are often swept aside in the hullabaloo of Congressional midterm election fears. On the agenda is a nice Pride reception with the heads of various state organizations, though notably absent the national leaders such as GetEQUAL’s Robin McGehee. Indeed, the co-chair of the organization seemed less than thrilled about the reception stating “In reference to the leadership that’s going in, I hope that it’s not just going in to share tea or cocktails, but it’s actually to go in and come out with answers about when the ['Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell'] discharges are going to stop and when ENDA’s going to get to the floor for a vote.” Of course, the legality of any such moratorium would depend on a number of factors, but given that the law has not been officially slated for overturning, it seems unlikely that the President could simply order the discharges to end.
Despite the reservations of McGehee, who does not appear to have spoken to some of those invited, it appears that this reception is not just about the photo op, and many local leaders will be pressing legislation to help the LGBT Community. Ian Palmquist, executive director of Equality North Carolina, is planning on pushing President Obama about the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. North Carolina does not have a law protecting lesbian, gay and transgender employees from discrimination. He stated “I would like the president to publicly and vocally call on Congress to pass ENDA as soon as possible. I believe that ENDA is the most important item on our agenda right now — and passing it would have a transformative effect on a lot of LGBT people in our country. . .I think I’d tell him about the impact that discrimination is having on people here in North Carolina and why it’s so important for him to stand up and ask that ENDA be passed as soon as possible.” Palmquist hoped to get the opportunity to speak with the President, and it seemed fairly likely that he would.
Nadine Smith of Equality Florida hoped that the President would address the ban on adoption in her state. “I would ask him to help us undo it. It’s on the ropes; public support for it is eroding. We think him weighing in would be really helpful,” she stated. Her greatest fear is that social conservatives will try to spread similar laws across the nation.
McGehee talked about holding a counter event, but gave no details. The focus on the state groups may help in the long run given that it may make it easier for activists to get the President’s ear. Doing this also means that the President avoids the perception of hobnobbing only with the large national groups who have begun to be called Gay Inc. These include, but are not limited to, the Human Rights Campaign and GetEQUAL, both of which give large salaries to their core members.