With actions as sweeping as new workplace rules for gays and as symbolic as a gender-neutral bathroom in the White House, President Obama is stepping up his efforts in the sexual-orientation culture wars and trying to burnish his legacy as a champion of gay rights.
Activists in both parties say Mr. Obama’s renewed push for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality could have implications for the 2016 election, because his actions will be difficult for the next president to reverse, and because he is solidifying the Democratic Party’s already-strong ties to a part of its base that votes enthusiastically and raises campaign money prodigiously.
“Clearly, the president and his team are banking on milking the waning hours of the culture war,” said Greg McNeilly, a Republican strategist in Michigan who is gay. “It’s working for them now, and they’re trying to maximize that effect. I do see him accelerating his efforts.”
Since his first days in office, Mr. Obama has presented himself as a friend of the LGBT community, appointing more gays to judgeships, ambassadorial posts and other top government jobs while ending the military’s ban on open homosexuals.
But Mr. Obama, who didn’t endorse same-sex marriage until 2012, has picked up the pace of LGBT-friendly actions in recent months, from fully implementing his executive order banning LGBT discrimination by federal contractors to appointing the first U.S. special envoy devoted to LGBT issues to urging states last week to ban “conversion therapy” that teaches young gays how to become straight.
And Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said that he is open-minded about lifting the Pentagon’s ban on transgendered people from serving in the armed forces, a possible move that has encountered strong pushback from senior military brass.
“I feel that this administration has been moving steadily forward on LGBT equality, and I’m excited about the things that have happened recently,” said David Mariner, executive director of the nonprofit DC Center for the LGBT Community. “Everything that’s happened has moved us forward, and I would hope that whatever happens in the next election cycle, we’ve made enough steps forward that we’re not going back.”
The White House also announced last week that it had opened a gender-neutral bathroom in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and said anyone can use whatever bathroom they feel best fits their gender identity. The Eisenhower building is located near the West Wing of the White House and is used by White House staff.
Senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett said that Mr. Obama “is determined to lead by example.”
SOURCE: Dave Boyer
The Washington Times