Anger rises over Obama’s policies

McClatchy Newspapers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — If Diane Silver’s blog reflects the sentiments of gay and lesbian Americans in the heartland, President Barack Obama is fast losing a serious fan base.

The Topeka woman’s postings throughout June, which is Gay Pride Month, have railed about what she calls Obama’s “awful record ... token action and empty words.” She called his Justice Department’s recent court filing — a 54-page defense of a federal marriage law that Obama pledged to repeal — “hideous.”

Many in the movement still speak hopefully of a president who won their overwhelming support in the 2008 elections. But the enthusiasm — and the same level of campaign contributions — may not be there for other Democrats in next year’s elections.

Complaints over what many see as the administration’s lack of zeal zip through the alternative-lifestyle blogosphere.

Stampp Corbin, an openly gay San Diego city commissioner who rallied supporters to Obama’s presidential bid, wrote online: “When I wake up each morning, I feel a bit schizophrenic myself. ‘I love Obama, I hate Obama, I am ambivalent ...’ It’s maddening.”

Corbin was among several leaders of gay and lesbian communities who, on Thursday, boycotted a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Washington. He suggested the White House had better start delivering results “or the coffers of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community will be slammed shut on the fingers of your administration.”

As the postings mount, a “Lost Change” campaign urges homosexual-rights advocates to mail pennies of protest to the White House.

Nationally, gay-rights groups continue to count the president as a friend, at least in public. Given persistent pledges to end the military’s ban on homosexuality, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and to repeal discriminatory elements of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, the White House hopes for a strong showing this week when Obama hosts a Gay Pride reception.

“We’re trying to learn how to work with this administration,” said Paul Cates, who directs the LGBT Project for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The president, shouldering a sherpa’s load of issues and projects since his swearing-in five months ago, is seen as trying to avoid complicating his agenda by igniting the culture wars.

On Facebook, blog sites and online social networks, a groundswell of impatience at lost opportunities is rising from the LGBT ranks.

“He talks a good game,” said Silver, a freelance journalist who helped found the Kansas Equality Coalition. “But he’s been so politically timid. ... The anger in that community has been growing for months.”

Much of the anger centers on a June 11 Justice Department brief seeking to dismiss a constitutional challenge of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

The law, limiting federal marriage benefits to opposite-sex couples only, is the target of a federal lawsuit in California. Justice spokesman Charles Miller said as attorneys for the government “we have to defend that law” when it’s taken to court. “It’s Congress’ job” to change or chuck it if Congress sees fit.

Advocates of change note that same-sex companions are turned away from their loved-ones’ death beds. Surviving partners can’t collect the deceased’s Social Security benefits. Immigration and naturalization laws that allow heterosexual couples from different countries to unite don’t apply to same-sex couples.

Although Obama did not support gay marriage during his campaign, he called for “federal recognition” of same-sex unions so those partners qualify for benefits accorded married couples.