Consolation Prize for Gays

By Dan Froomkin
12:05 PM ET, 06/17/2009

Tossing a bone to a gay community that is increasingly frustrated by his failure to keep his key campaign promises to them, President Obama today will sign a presidential memo extending some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

The Los Angeles Times says that will include health benefits; the New York Times says it won't. But in either case, it's both an important milestone for the gay community -- and a transparent sop highly unlikely to satisfy the growing anger.

Mark Z. Barabak and Jessica Garrison write for the Los Angeles Times that Obama's action

comes days after the Obama administration sparked outrage by filing a legal brief defending the law forbidding federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Obama opposed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act during his presidential campaign....

As a candidate for president, Obama was a staunch supporter of gay and lesbian rights. He called for repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act and also the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which forbids openly gay men and women from serving in the armed forces. He promised to help lead the fight.

Since taking office, however, Obama has disappointed many gay activists by not just keeping silent but, lately, by defending some of the policies he criticized.

Jeff Zeleny writes in the New York Times that

administration officials said the timing of the announcement was intended to help contain the growing furor among gay rights groups. Several gay donors withdrew their sponsorship of a Democratic National Committee fund-raising event next week, where Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled to speak.

The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe predicts the move "should ease some of the bad feelings from liberals and gay rights groups."

But prominent gay blogger John Aravosis writes otherwise:

[B]ecause of Obama's inaction on his main presidential campaign promises to our community...we have a scenario in which gays will get fewer benefits than their straight colleagues, and some gay federal employees will get benefits (civilians) while others (military) will not. See how complicated it gets to do anything when you fail to keep your basic promises?

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