Main | Friday, May 01, 2009

White House Restores LGBT Rights Promises On Website (But Changes DADT Wording From "Repeal" To "Change")

UPDATE: There's been another change and it's for the better.

Yesterday JMG reader Sean Chapin alerted me to the shrunken list of commitments to LGBT rights on the White House's official site. What was once an eight-point list of detailed promises including the repeal of DADT, the repeal of DOMA, and other major commitments shrank to these two sentences:
President Obama also continues to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. He supports full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
I posted about this massive reduction and sent the post off to my contacts at several major LGBT organizations. Among the responses was this from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force:
I wanted to let you know that Rea Carey contacted the White House directly about the issue today after you alerted us to your post. Rea was told that they are changing the White House Web site to turn it into a more governance-focused site to reflect progress, as opposed to a campaign and transition site. They said they have taken out many such points throughout the site (not just on LGBT policy issues) as part of this changeover, and are apparently modifying the site over the next few weeks. We will be keeping an eye on it, but if you see changes before we do (or a lack thereof), please let us know. And thank you for calling this to our attention.
Today Americablog's John Aravosis writes:
In spite of yesterday's change in language, a White House spokesman assured me last night that no change in policy was intended:
"As is the case with most websites, periodic changes are made to Recently we overhauled the issues section to concisely reflect the President's broad agenda, and will continue to update these pages. The President's commitment on LGBT issues has not changed, and any suggestions to the contrary are false."
At around the same time last night, the Civil Rights page was updated to include many of the previously omitted promises. Hate Crimes was now included as a news update, since the bill just passed the House, and AIDS is now included elsewhere on the White House Web site - all of which is fine.

There was, however, one bit of new language that caught the eye of a number of observers with whom I spoke last night:
[President Obama] supports changing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security... [emphasis added]
Aravosis concludes:
The language changed from a commitment to a "full repeal" of DADT to a commitment to "change" the discriminatory policy in a "sensible" manner. While the White House has assured us that this is not an indication of a change in policy, the language, on its face, appears to be a clear change in policy. Changing DADT is not repealing DADT. It is a commitment to keep the discriminatory policy in place, albeit with some alterations. If the White House is still in favor of "repealing" Don't Ask Don't Tell, albeit in a "sensible way" - and we're happy to take them at their word - then say just that. Change "change" to "repeal" and be done with it.
Naturally, I'm stoked that my post spurred some movers-and-shakers to pressure the White House to restore most of the list. But like John Aravosis, I'm quite dismayed with the new DADT wording.

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