As the Obama administration hustles to fulfill President Obama’s campaign promises to create equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, conservative groups are crying foul.
This week, the Department of Labor announced that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will now allow employees other than parents to take unpaid leave to care for a child. This specifically includes same-sex partners who are adopting or raising a child together.
The FMLA change was part of the “Blueprint for Positive Change,” a series of pro-LGBT policy actions that could be done without congressional action, said the Human Rights Campaign. “HRC worked with Department of Labor staff to move this important change forward,” it added.
Other pro-gay moves by the administration include advising hospitals to allow gay men and lesbians to freely visit their partners when they are patients, and reopening the discussion about changing the Food and Drug Administration’s blood-donor policy to allow gay men to give blood if they have been sexually abstinent for a certain period of time.
At a recent dinner held at the White House in honor of Gay Pride Month, Mr. Obama said he was “pushing hard” to pass a bill outlawing workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that he has already “issued an executive order to extend as many partnership benefits to gay and lesbian federal employees as possible under current law.”
Two more changes are in the works, too, the president added.
“Because I believe that committed gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country, I have called for Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act,” Mr. Obama said. “And finally, we’re going to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ military policy. We have never been closer to ending this discriminatory policy, and I’m going to keep on fighting until that bill is on my desk and I can sign it.”
Traditional Values Coalition leader Andrea Lafferty chided the president for hosting the gay pride event when he had “no time” to host the National Day of Prayer event in May.
She also faulted Mr. Obama for talking about families with “two fathers” in his Father’s Day proclamation. “He’s far more interested in pushing the agenda of cross-dressers, drag queens, transsexuals and homosexuals than upholding traditional marriage and the mother-and-father families,” she wrote on her blog.
“Obama fishes for rainbow clout,” said the Family Research Council, another conservative stalwart.
“I would say there’s an unprecedented onslaught of harmful legislation here in Washington,” said FRC President Tony Perkins in his “Washington Watch Weekly” radio show. It’s “anti-faith and anti-family,” he said.
Opening the FMLA to gay parents is “a huge leap” because it affects private employers, too, said Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at FRC. But employment “nondiscrimination” is a core part of a 40-year-old gay rights agenda, he wrote in his new booklet, “The Top Ten Myths about Homosexuality.”
A round of calls to top polling groups this week unearthed no immediate public reaction to Mr. Obama’s gay-friendly innovations.
However, in May, the Gallup Values and Beliefs Poll found that opposition to gay marriage had dropped to 53 percent, with 44 percent supporting it. When Gallup first asked about gay marriage in 1996, 68 percent of Americans opposed it, and 27 percent favored it.
The Pew Research Center’s 2009 Annual Religion and Public Life Survey found similar opposition to gay marriage (53 percent against, and 39 percent for). But it also found stronger support for civil unions for gay couples, growing to 57 percent in 2009 from 45 percent support in 2003.
The Obama administration has fulfilled a few other items on its agenda - Mr. Obama has already enacted a law making it a federal crime to assault someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and lifted a ban on using HIV/AIDS funding to run “needle-exchange” programs for drug users. But the administration has some other unfinished business, such as repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, and extending adoption rights to gay couples.
Special interest groups have a request or two, too. This month, the Center for American Progress released a report on gay and transgender homeless youth. They have asked that Mr. Obama write an executive order to identify these youth as a special-needs population, and for Congress to allocate $3 million to fund programs for them.