Now Is The Time For President Obama to Say “I Do” on Marriage Equality

Monday, May 7th, 2012

(Editor’s Note – With Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan both announcing their support for marriage equality, pressure is building on President Obama to do the same.  As such, we are reprinting below our open letter from last year to President Obama urging him to publicly support marriage equality.  Please send this or a similar letter to President Obama by clicking here, and urge your family and friends to do the same.)

Dear President Obama:

I write as a proud supporter to urge you to take a stand on the civil right issue of our time and to strongly and publicly support marriage equality.

Seven states have now recognized marriage equality, and Vice President Biden on Sunday noted his support for this common sense policy.  Even before these developments, many were asking where you are on this issue, and now the questions are piling up.

I strongly disagree with the critics who suggest that you not a friend of the LGBT community.  In fact, your Administration has done more to advance policies supporting LGBT equality than any other.  I and tens of millions of other Americans thank you for keeping your promise to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ending the legal defense of the indefensible “Defense of Marriage Act,” requiring all hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid to ensure equal visitation rights to LGBT Americans, extending employee benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, and lifting the HIV Entry Ban.  We still have a far ways to go to achieve full equality in the U.S., and I strongly believe that you are a friend and ally in that continuing struggle.

That being said, the statements from folks in your Administration that your position on marriage equality is “evolving” or that you are “grappling” with the issue simply do not cut it.  Having watched you answer questions about civil unions and marriage equality during the primary campaign for your 2004 U.S. Senate run, I believe that you have privately supported marriage equality for a long time now, as the delivery of your answers suggest that you didn’t find the distinctions you were offering for supporting civil unions but opposing marriage equality convincing.   But, regardless, now is the time for you to stand up on this issue for at least four reasons.

1. It is morally the right thing to do – Marriage equality is an issue of fundamental fairness.  As straight people, I was free to marry my spouse and you, President Obama, were free to marry Michelle with no impediment from the state or federal government.  But in most states, our fellow LGBT Americans are not allowed to make that ultimate commitment to the person they love.  As a result, LGBT Americans are not able to honor and proclaim their relationships in the same way that other Americans are, and LGBT Americans are denied access to the more than 1,000 legal rights that accompany marriage in the U.S.  Such unequal treatment is morally wrong, and should not continue in a country that prides itself on equal rights for all.

2. It is what our Democratic Party is about – For decades, our Democratic Party has proudly taken a strong leadership role in fighting for the laws and policies necessary to spread the benefits of freedom and equality to all Americans.  In 1948, Democratic President Harry Truman ordered the military desegregated.  In the early- to mid-1960s, Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson passed a series of civil rights acts that started to chip away at racial discrimination in housing, accommodations, voting rights, and other areas of society.  And Democratic leaders and activists have played leading roles in the fight for gender equality, the rights of workers, and disabled Americans.  Democrats have taken these steps because they are consistent with our fundamental belief that the benefits of society should accrue to all Americans, not just to a privileged or select few.  It is now time to recognize that such belief requires us to lead the fight for marriage equality, rather than to sit on the sidelines of this major civil rights issue.

3. You can be a great spokesperson for marriage equality – Your ability to communicate progressive ideals in compelling and convincing ways has always been clear.  From your 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, to the multitude of great speeches you made during the 2008 Presidential campaign, to your ringing endorsement of the progressive ideal of government in your speech on fiscal responsibility back in April 2011, your ability to communicate and persuade has never been in doubt.  That talent alone could add a lot to the fight for marriage equality.  In addition, you have a life story that supports the ideal of marriage equality.  Namely, your parents’ marriage in the early 1960s would have been illegal in many states in the U.S. because many states outlawed interracial marriage at the time.  Who better to fight for marriage equality now than a person who has gone from his parents’ marriage being illegal in many states, to running for and winning the race to be President of those same states?

4. It is a politically smart thing to do – While I am sure your aides have urged you to not take a stand on this issue in order to avoid alienating voters on this issue their political calculus is, frankly, wrong.   Polls show that opponents of gay marriage are now in the minority, with the four national polls showing support for marriage equality at over 50%.  A CNN poll from last year shows support for gay marriage at 55% among independents, and in the electoral battlegrounds of the Midwest and West, support is at 54% and 61%, respectively.  And, more importantly, your public support will help rally a progressive base that, rightly or wrongly, has raised concerns about how willing you are to stand up on our issues.  People who would vote based on the issue of gay marriage are almost certainly not going to vote for you regardless of what you do, while standing up in support of marriage equality now would help ensure that a well-organized group of progressives will be enthusiastic about fighting for your re-election.   We all know that the GOP is going to throw every dirty trick and slimy attack they can at you.   In such circumstances, having enthusiastic supports ready to get in the trenches to counteract those attacks is critical to victory.

In short, supporting marriage equality is the right thing to do morally and politically, would be invaluable to the movement for equality, and will help our party continue its long and proud tradition in favor of fairness and equality.  So, Mr. President, I urge you to continue the great track record you have on LGBT equality and fight for the civil rights issue of our time – marriage equality.


Winning Progressive

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list we have a website urging North Carolinians to vote Against the anti-LGBT Amendment One on May 8, an excerpt from Paul Krugman’s new book, an accounting of the SEC’s increased criminal and civil prosecutions of financial fraud, a report on the importance of immigration to our economy and fiscal future, and essays on how coalitions and strategies around the fight for LGBT equality can provide instructive examples of how progressives can win in other policy areas.


Know and Love – A collection of videos of North Carolinians speaking out against Amendment One, the anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment that is on the ballot on Tuesday, May 8.  Many North Carolina voters appear to be unaware that Amendment One would bar not only marriage equality but also legal recognition of all civil unions and domestic partnerships.  If you know people in North Carolina, please urge them to vote Against Amendment One on Tuesday, May 8.

The SEC: Outmanned, Outgunned, and On a Roll - the story of how the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has undertaken an unprecedented number of criminal and civil actions against financial malfeasance over the past few years.  In 2011 alone, the SEC filed a record 735 enforcement actions and collected $928 million in penalties, almost four times the amount it collected in 2008.

How to End This Depression – an excerpt from Paul Krugman’s new book End This Depression Now! on how we can achieve government policies that would finally bring economic recovery and strong job growth.

How Organized Labor Helped Win Marriage Equality in Maryland and Washington, And What We Can Learn – how SEIU, UNITE HERE, UFCW and other unions worked with LGBT activists to achieve marriage equality in Maryland and Washington, and how labor and LGBT groups can continue to work together on achieving labor victories for both groups.

America’s Secret Growth Weapon: Why Immigration Really, Really Matters – an accounting of how immigration is critically important to economic growth in the US, and in keeping our population younger so that Medicare and Social Security can stay afloat.

What Gay Rights Activists Can Teach the Left About Winning - the story of significant progress on LGBT equality during the Obama Administration demonstrates the importance of progressives figuring out how to constructively pressure the Administration to take progressive stands, rather than either assuming the Administration will do so on its own or pretending like President Obama is no better than the Republicans.

2011: A Great Year for LGBT Equality

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011
Two female sailors become the first same-sex couple to share
the traditional "first kiss" after a US Navy ship  returns.
Photo by Brian J. Clark/AP

2011 has been a banner year for the advancement of LGBT equality at the national, state, and local levels.  Following are some of the highlights.  While much work remains, these last few days of 2011 would be a good time to take a moment to celebrate these truly wonderful progressive victories that have brought our country closer to the ideal of equality for all.

DADT Repealed – On September 20, the discriminatory Don’t  Ask Don’t Tell policy, which excluded openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving their country in the military, officially ended.  The official end of that policy followed a certification by military leaders and President Obama that ending the ban on LGBT Americans serving their country in the military would not jeopardize military readiness.  Such certification requirement was established in legislation passed by the Democratic House and Senate in December 2010 that started the repeal process.

Challenging DOMA – In February 2011, the Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder announced that they would no longer defend the “Defense Of Marriage Act” in court because they concluded that the Act is unconstitutional.  In July, the Obama DOJ filed a brief supporting a federal court lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DOMA, and earlier this month the DOJ sent one of its top civil rights attorneys to argue in federal district court against DOMA.

Supporting Repeal of DOMA – President Obama announced his support for the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the indefensible DOMA.  The Respect for Marriage Act has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and in the House by Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY).

Promoting LGBT Rights Abroad – In December, the Obama Administration issued a memorandum announcing its intent to use foreign diplomacy, including foreign aid, to promote LGBT rights around the world. That announcement was accompanied by a speech in favor of LGBT riInghts given by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at United Nations Human Rights Council.

First Openly Gay Federal Judge – In July, the first openly gay federal judge, J. Paul Oetken, was confirmed by the US Senate by an 80-13 vote after being nominated by President Obama and recommended by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

Hospital Visitation Rights – On January 17, Department of Health and Human Services regulations requiring any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding to guarantee equal visitation rights for LGBT patients went into effect.  The rules were promulgated at the direction of President Obama, who had issued a Presidential Memorandum calling for equal visitation rights.

Public Support for Marriage Equality – For the first time in nearly a decade of polling, the majority of respondents (53%) stated they were in favor of marriage equality.  44% were opposed.

US Senate Support for Marriage Equality – the number of Senators who have publicly declared their support for marriage equality is now up to at least 20 (all of them Democrats), after Senators John Kerry, Mark Udall, and Robert Menedez all announced their support in 2011.

New York - July 23, 2011 was the first day in which same-sex marriages were legally authorized in New York, thanks to legislation that was recently passed with the strong support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

California - California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (“FAIR”) Education Act, which requires that the economic, social, and political contributions of LGBT Californians be included in the school curriculum in that state.

Connecticut – In July, Connecticut became the 15th state in the country to ban discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas of the law.

Delaware - In May, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed legislation making his state the 8th in the nation to recognize same-sex civil unions.  The law is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2012.

Florida – The Miami-Dade County School District, which is the fourth largest in the nation, added sexual orientation and gender identity to their anti-bullying and harassment policy.

Hawaii - In February, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed legislation recognizing same-sex civil unions.

Maryland – Supporters of equality suffered a setback last spring when marriage equality legislation that had passed the state Senate was narrowly defeated in the state House of Delegates.  A large progressive coalition, however, is back to get the legislation passed next year, and Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley announced last week that he has made the legislation one of his administration’s handful of top legislative priorities.  If you’d like to support this effort, “like” Equality Maryland’s Facebook page.

Massachusetts – In November, Massachusetts became the 16th state to ban discrimination in housing, employment, insurance, and other areas based on gender identity.

Washington – in Washington State, Democratic Congressman and candidate for Governor Jay Inslee publicly announced his support for marriage equality a few days before launching his gubernatorial campaign.  If you’d like to learn more about Inslee and his campaign, here is his campaign Facebook page and website.

Utah – the state Democratic Party elected Utah’s first openly gay major political party leader by choosing Jim Dabakis.  Dabakis is a co-founder of the Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah.

Topics to Write About to Your Newspaper

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

A few days ago, Winning Progressive launched a campaign designed to encourage our readers to spread the progressive message to the American public by writing letters to the editors of their local newspapers. The best letter will receive a prize, and all letters that are published will also be posted here at Winning Progressive.

As part of the letter to the editor campaign, Winning Progressive will be regularly posting timely articles or issues that we believe would be good topics to write letters to the editor on.  Below are the first four timely topics that each could form the basis for a good letter to the editor.

Civil Unions in Delaware – Late last week, Delaware Governor Jack Markell announced that he would sign into law legislation recently passed by the Delaware state legislature making Delaware the eight state in the country to recognize same sex civil unions.  If you live in Delaware, write a letter to the editor thanking Gov. Markell and the state legislator for voting in favor of LGBT equality.   Links to Delaware papers are available here.

Require Corporations to Pay Their Fair Share on Tax Day - With tax day happening on Monday, April 18, now is a great time to remind people how large corporations use loopholes and creative accounting to pay little to no taxes despite having billions of dollars in profit.  General Electric is the best known example this year, as they received a $3.2 billion tax benefit from the IRS while making $5.2 billion in profits.  Here are fourteen other examples.

GOP Votes to Abolish Medicare – Last week, all but four Republican members of the House voted for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal which would, among other things, abolish Medicare and replace it with inadequate health insurance vouchers.  Write a letter to the editor reminding people that the GOP is now on record supporting the abolition of Medicare.  If your Congressperson is a Republican, mention him or her by name in your letter – the only GOP House members to vote against the budget proposal were Reps. Ron Paul (Texas), Denny Rehberg (Mont.), Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and David McKinley (W.Va.).

State GOP Officials Attack Environmental Laws - Republican Governors Paul LePage in Maine, Rick Scott in Florida, and Chris Christie in New Jersey, and the Republican state legislature in North Carolina, have launched significant attacks on state environmental laws, cutting budgets for environmental agencies and working to open protected natural areas up to more development.   If you live in one of those states, write a letter to the editor calling on your elected officials to stand up for the environment and reject efforts to undermine state environmental protections.  Here are links to newspapers in Florida, Maine, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

Celebrating Progressive Victories

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

As we’ve explained previously, a big part of winning progressive is celebrating progressive victories as they happen.  Here is our latest celebratory installment. If you have a progressive victory to add to the list, please let us know at the Winning Progressive Facebook page.

* Hawaii Approves Same-Sex Civil Unions – Last Wednesday, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie sign legislation authorizing same-sex civil unions, making Hawaii the seventh state in the U.S. to do so.

Contact Gov. Abercrombie and thank him.

* Maryland Moves Closer to Marriage Equality – Last Thursday, the Maryland Senate passed legislation granting full marriage rights to same-sex couples.  If the legislation passes the Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley has promised to sign it.

Here is the roll call vote in the Maryland Senate.  Contact the state Senators who voted yes and thank them, and also contact Maryland House members and urge them to support marriage equality by voting for House Bill 175.

* Thousands of Lives to be Saved With New U.S. EPA Rules – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last Monday finalized Clean Air Act regulations that will require coal-fired boilers at factories, hospitals, and other industrial and commercial facilities to significantly reduce their air pollution emissions.  This so-called “Boiler MACT” rule will prevent an estimated 2,500-6,500 premature deaths, 4,000 non-fatal heat attacks, and 3,700 cases of acute bronchitis every year starting in 2014.

Contact the White House and thank the Obama Administration for enforcing the Clean Air Act.

* American Autoworkers to Receive Profit Sharing Checks – Two years ago, the Big Three automakers were on the verge of collapse.  This week, however, General Motors announced that it had a $4.7 billion profit in 2010, and will be sending profit-sharing checks of $4,300 to each of its 45,000 unionized workers.  This is further proof that the Obama Administration’s rescue of the auto industry was the right thing to do and was done effectively. It is also important to note that a few years the unionized auto workers gave up $7,000 – $30,000 per year in concessions to help the auto companies recover.

Write a letter to the editor to spread the word about the success of the auto industry rescue. Here are links for submitting letters to the editor for national papers, and to newspapers in Colorado, Connecticut, DelawareIllinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

* Obama Administration Stops Defending DOMA – Last Wednesday the Obama Administration announced that it would no longer defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act, which authorizes states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages entered into in other states, and which restricts marriage at the federal level to being between only a man and a woman.

Contact the White House and thank the Obama Administration for standing up for equality, fairness, and our Constitution.

Celebrating Progressive Victories

Friday, February 4th, 2011

One thing that the progressive movement does not do very well is to celebrate its victories.  Because progressive change typically comes in a series of steps, rather than all at once, we often get so focused on taking the next step that we do not take time to reflect on good things as we achieve them.  By not celebrating our victories, we often create the false impression that progressives are losing, which can discourage our supporters, make undecided voters less likely to support us, and make elected officials less likely to fight for our causes.

In an effort to avoid such impacts and help spread the word that progressives have won and continue to win numerous significant victories that have helped advance the causes of fairness, justice, and equality in America and the world, we like to highlight progressive victories here at Winning Progressive.  This past week there were at least four such victories worth celebrating:

* Defeating Repeal of Health Care Reform – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted 51 to 47 to reject a Republicans legislative effort to repeal health care reform.  Repeal would have allowed the health insurance industry to return to abusive practices such as pre-existing condition exclusions and retroactive policy cancellations,  foreclose the expansion of affordable coverage to 32 million more Americans, increase the deficit, and return us to a broken health insurance system.  By turning back repeal, Senate Democrats have allowed the American people to continue to enjoy the significant benefits of health care reform.  If you have a Democratic Senator, call him or her and thank them for voting against repeal.

* Signing the New START Treaty – Also on Wednesday, President Obama signed the New START Treaty, which reduces deployed nuclear weapons by 1/3 and ensures that we are able to continue nuclear weapons inspections in Russia in order to verify reductions and help keep nuclear materials out of the hands of rogue nations or terrorists.  New START was ratified in the Senate in December only after Democrats overcame significant Republican obstructionism.

* Civil Unions Authorized in Illinois - Earlier this week, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that made Illinois the sixth state to allow same-sex civil unions (five others allow for same-sex marriage).  If you live in Illinois, contact Governor Pat Quinn and the members of the Illinois House and Senate who got the civil unions legislation enacted.

* Republicans Give Up on “Forcible Rape” Provision – Earlier this week, Republicans (and one Democratic House member) proposed to redefine the rape exception to the ban on federal abortion coverage to extend to only “forcible rape.”   Such a redefinition would mean that victims of statutory rape or incest would be foreclosed from receiving federal aid for getting an abortion.  After a large pushback from Democrats and progressives, however, Republicans backed down on Thursday and returned to the broader rape exclusion under current law.

If you know of other progressive victories at the federal, state, or local levels that we should be celebrating, e-mail us to let us know.