Pressuring Obama To Ditch the Defense of Marriage Act Is AlterNet's Top Take Action Campaign This Week
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During the years leading up to his presidency, Barack Obama made no secret of his desire to grant gays and lesbians equal rights. In 2006, as a member of the Illinois state senate, he scored an 89 out of 100 on Human Rights Campaign’s bi-annual legislative scorecard. Last year, he promised things like “equality,” “dignity” and “respect” to marginalized GLBT communities. When the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a federal law that defines ‘marriage’ as occurring only between a man and a woman and keeps same-sex couples from enjoying the rights straight marriage affords – reached Congress in 1996, Obama was among the minority of lawmakers who opposed it.
It seemed the idealistic senator had all the makings of an effective advocate for gays and lesbians across America. But then he became commander in chief and things changed.
Since January, Obama’s once-rigid stance on GLBT rights has adopted a taffy-like flaccidity. Despite promising gays and lesbians in late June that “you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration” by 2012, Obama has let political pressures rout him on two fronts: He has refused to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the U.S. military’s most gangrenous appendage of institutionalized homophobia; and he has not staged a meaningful offensive against DOMA, the same law he so bravely opposed 13 years ago.
In what should have been a significant step forward, Obama last Monday issued a brief stating that his administration considered DOMA “discriminatory.”
Too bad the same brief moved to dismiss a case brought forth by a California couple hoping to overturn the law.
The reason for such contradictory hesitance was, once again, conveniently institutional. Obama’s administration must defend federal laws "as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the Department disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here," the brief, which was written by Assistant Attorney General Tony West, states.
So the bad news here is that the tentacles of impersonal protocol continue to snatch away the most basic of freedoms from Americans everywhere. Gay couples – regardless of citizenship – cannot enjoy the benefits straight couples take for granted.
The good news is that you can help. Making sure Obama understands the havoc that DOMA wreaks on gay and lesbian families means making your voice heard. Join the thousands who have already told the president how DOMA affects them personally. You can do it here.
Here are the rest of our Take Action campaigns this week.
II – Stop the Lies About Health Reform (SEIU)
The Right’s jihad against Obama’s health care overhaul is a toxic cocktail of piggybank fiction. Seeking to guard their enormous interests, health industry lobbyists provide funding for campaigns of misinformation and fear.
Among these is the claim (promoted, of course, by Sarah Palin) that Obama’s plan includes “death panels” to decide whether sick or elderly Americans will live or die. There is in fact no provision in the proposed reform to substantiate such a claim. It is a total and utter lie.
Here are a couple of facts, though: 80 percent of Americans want radical health reform. Seventy-two percent want a public option. It’s up to us to make sure no lies keep us from getting these.
III – Join a Worldwide Day of Climate Change (350.org)
A year ago James Hansen, a climatologist at NASA, determined that if our atmosphere’s carbon content exceeds 350 parts per million, our planet will not be “similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” We’re already at 390 parts per million, and rising – that’s why the polar ice caps are melting and the oceans are rising.
People in over 100 countries (including the U.S., China and Cameroon) are gearing up for a day of demonstration on Oct. 24. These members of 350.org are planning to compile a photo petition that displays the power of worldwide consensus. This ‘day of action’ will take place six weeks before crucial UN climate meetings in Copenhagen. Click here to see how you can get involved locally.
IV – Help Marginalized People Across the World (Amnesty)
In December 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Optional Protocol). Its main purpose was to ensure that member states worked to correct historical infractions on citizens’ rights.
On Sept. 24, the Protocol will open for signature. It is only with wide international support that this legislation can bring about changes to troubling norms of marginalization, brutality and other violations. You can help move the world in the right direction here.
V – Free Nobel Prize-Winner Aung Sun Suu Kiy (Care2)
Recently, Nobel Prize-winning democracy activist Aung Sun Suu Kiy was sentenced to 18 months of house arrest by Burmese authorities. The punishment will effectively silence her during the country’s upcoming elections.
Many Western countries are pushing for UN Security Council action and an arms embargo against the country; but China and Russia, both crucial veto powers, are likely to stop any meaningful challenges from taking place. They have defended Burma’s human rights violations in the past.
Without their cooperation, an important voice will not be heard. Please join over 25,000 others who have asked China and Russia to support pressure on Burma. You can do it here.
VI – Don’t Let Women Lose Reproductive Health Coverage (Naral Pro-Choice)
Since the Right began its smear/fear campaign against Obama’s health care plan, the question of whether women’s private health insurance should provide them with safe reproductive services has been thrown to the forefront of debate.
The argument is nothing new. But this time, the frenzy of anti-choicers has snagged the ear of policymakers in Washington. It’s up to us to make sure they do the right thing. Write them today. Tell them not to strip women’s insurance providers of an important and legal right.
VII – Keep Up the Heat On Glenn Beck’s Advertisers (Color of change)
Glenn Beck’s racist tirades are paranoid and inexcusable. They point both to an individual’s fantasies of white superiority, and to an entire network’s sanctioning of hate. Even as Beck’s advertisers flee like spooked pigeons, Fox continues to air his show.
This is because Fox only speaks the language of dollars and cents. In order to smother Beck’s rigorous ignorance, we need to hit the network where it hurts: its wallet. Join the many who have called on Beck’s advertisers to stop promoting hate.
VIII – Unlock the Camps in Sri Lanka (Change)
Even though Sri Lanka's civil war ended recently, there are more than 300,000 people still living in military-run internment camps there. Around 50,000 of them are children, and many are dying every day from lack of water and proper sanitation.
We need to urge Sri Lanka's government to grant freedom of movement to these refugees. Encourage the authorities to place control of the camps back in civilian hands, and allow journalists and aid workers access. You can do it here.
IX – Protect America’s Medical Records (ACLU)
Obama's stimulus bill contained within it provisions that would do two things: demand that health care providers convert medical records from paper to computers; and implement a slew of privacy protections that would outlaw the sale of any such information to private insurance companies.
Now it's up to us to see that lawmakers prioritize our privacy. Tell the Department of Health and Human Services that computerized medical records with strong privacy protections are in the public's best interest. Do it here.
X – Save the Dolphins
Illuminated most recently by a thrilling documentary called "The Cove," Japan's abuse of dolphins stands out as one of the most shocking examples of animal cruelty in the world. Each year, more than 20,000 dolphins are slaughtered for their meat, which is intentionally labeled as "whale." This meat contains dangerously high levels of mercury and poses a significant threat to human health.
It's time to let President Obama, Vice President Biden and Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki know that such abuses will not stand. Write a letter that urges them to address the cruelty in Taiji. Stop the slaughter before it's too late.