Eye Opener: Obama administration's gay outreach continues
Happy Thursday! (Unless you're White House Counsel Gregory Craig?) The gay rights community scored two more small victories on Tuesday, courtesy of the departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services.
HHS will establish the nation’s first national resource center for the support of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender senior citizens. The move is designed to help community groups support the estimated 1.5 to 4 million LGBT seniors. HUD introduced a series of proposals ensuring its housing programs do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The changes would clarify that the term "family," when referring to beneficiaries for housing or voucher programs, would include eligible LGBT individuals and couples.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said Tuesday that her group is "genuinely pleased" by the creation of the HHS resource center and welcomes the "much-needed reforms" at HUD.
But as The Eye and his colleagues recently reported, many gay rights leaders feel that despite several symbolic and the incremental moves, President Obama has put their agenda on the back burner. He recently said he will end the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy, but critics say he could have said spoken out and acted much sooner.
Obama supported ending "don't ask don't tell" and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act during his presidential campaign. Since then, he has stated a preference for Congress to repeal the military policy, and while a recent Justice Department filing clearly stated the president’s opposition to DOMA, government lawyers had to defend it earlier this year in a federal case.
Despite that, Obama has extended some benefits to the unmarried partners of gay federal employees while voicing support for legislation that grants them others. The White House distributed tickets to gay families to attend the annual Easter Egg Roll and hosted a Gay Pride Month celebration. The State Department now allows married gay and lesbian couples to obtain passports with their married names, and the administration is taking steps to end a policy that prohibits HIV-positive foreigners from entering the country.
Obama also awarded the Medal of Freedom posthumously to former San Francisco mayor and gay activist Harvey Milk. He picked John Berry to serve as director of the Office of Personnel Management, making him the highest-ranking gay official in American history.
That’s a good start, activists say, but they want more. References to parents on federal government paperwork should state “Parent 1 and Parent 2” instead of “Father and Mother.” HHS should provide more funding to help homeless gay teens. The administration should also ensure that faith-based social services do not deny care to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Oh, and hurry up with "don't ask don't tell" and DOMA already.
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• Please Note: Blogging will be lighter today as The Eye travels to southeastern Virginia on assignment.
• Next Tuesday: The Eye hosts a panel discussion with four Obama administration officials at the 19th annual Executive Leadership Conference, hosted by the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council in Williamsburg, Va. Follow the conference's proceedings at Twitter.com/#search?q=%23elc2009.
• Cabinet and Staff News: The 2006 "Survivor" winner gets hired at the FCC. The six White House officials leading Obama's health care reform fight. The pay czar plans to slash salaries at big financial firms. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on his school days. Defense Secretary Robert Gates talks tough in Japan. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (with a bruised eye) calls for an updated vaccine-making system. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke attends the U.S.-Iraq Business Dialogue in Washington and then co-hosts a clean energy economy forum with Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The new NEA chairman plans a nationwide arts tour.
• Postal Service Goes Mobile: The mobile version of USPS.com allows users to track packages, confirm shipments, find zip codes and postal locations.
• Become a NOAA Facebook Fan: Do you love government scientists, meteorologist and fishery experts? Then join their new fan page: Facebook.com/NOAA.Lubchenco.
• Lawmakers: Senate health care bill could hit feds with new taxes: Two Virginia Democratic lawmakers wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday to express concern about the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform bill, saying the legislation could impose significant health care insurance taxes on federal employees.
• Head of embattled Justice Dept. unit stepping down: William M. Welch II, the head of the public integrity unit, will step aside and return to Massachusetts, where he spent the bulk of his career exposing corruption in the state government, according to two sources familiar with the move.
• Defense Department does right by stop-lossed personnel: It will offer special retroactive payments to members of the armed forces whose contracts were reupped because the military decided it needed them, rather than because they wanted to keep serving.
• 18,000 sign up for Postal Service buyouts: Postal officials say that figure isn’t final. Employees were required to sign up for the incentives by Oct. 16, but they can still opt out of the program over the next few weeks.
• FDA lags in banning researchers after fraud: In a report scheduled for release on Thursday, Congressional investigators say the agency pays so little attention to its responsibilities to ban investigators convicted of fraud and is so disorganized about carrying them out that its actions take an average of four years to complete.
• Checks for seniors face opposition: The checks for Social Security recipients -- and some former federal employees -- is being criticized by some congressional Democrats worried that it could swell the deficit.
• Repairs begin at Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Workers will restore the flagpole's bronze finish and its decorative base with five military branch insignias. They will also restore the bronze finish for five stands that hold directories that help people find names on famous V-shaped memorial wall.
| October 22, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Administration, Eye Opener
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