Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Alternet's Weekly Take-Action Campaign: End DOMA

Alternet has just announced that the top item in its weekly take-action campaign is calling for the end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Alternet encourages readers each week to take action on behalf of a number of causes the website deems significant.

This week’s top action item is to pressure President Obama to ditch DOMA. As Byard Duncan’s article about this notes, the president’s pre-presidential zeal for abolishing DOMA (a legislative act he himself has characterized as discriminatory) appears to have vanished once he took office.

In June, the administration filed a brief in support of DOMA that sparked widespread protests in the gay community and among those who stand in solidarity with us. Since then, the Obama administration has issued a statement indicating that it continues to see DOMA as discriminatory, though it believes it is obliged to defend this legislative act in court when legal challenges are made against it.

As John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay have repeatedly pointed out on Americablog, the administration could abolish DOMA by executive privilege at any point it wished to do so. It has that right, and it has used such executive privilege to override stipulations of other legislation with which it disagrees. For whatever reason, in the case of DOMA, it has not only chosen not to use this executive privilege, but to defend an act the administration itself characterizes as discriminatory.

And there has been absolutely no action on the part of the administration to begin working with those in Congress who want to see DOMA ended.

Hence Alternet’s take-action campaign to encourage readers to notify the Obama administration that we expect the administration to fulfill its campaign promises to end an act that discriminates against a group of citizens solely on the grounds of sexual orientation. Alternet is encouraging its readers to support an initiative of the Human Rights Campaign to send statements to Congress calling for the end of DOMA.

Meanwhile, it’s encouraging to read that the mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker, is calling on the president to repeal DOMA and end don’t ask, don’t tell (DADT). Booker co-chaired the Obama campaign in New Jersey.

He recently told Advocate reporter Julie Bolcer that he is frustrated by the administration’s foot-dragging in the area of gay rights, and that he encourages “friends of his [i.e., the president’s] or associates of him get into his ear” to call on him to fulfill his promises about DOMA and DADT.

Booker addresses (and is not convinced by) the argument that the new administration has too much on its plate to deal with discrimination against LGBT citizens, and that such discrimination is a low priority on a list in which many other items take precedence. He views indefensible ongoing discrimination against a group of citizens as something that harms the entire nation, and that has to be addressed, if we seek to build a humane society for all:

“But that does not mean that I can’t as a citizen of this country be frustrated, impatient to watch what friends of mine who are gay and lesbian go through on a daily basis. That is such an affront to what we claim to be as a nation, and so having come from a group of Americans that’s been historically discriminated against, there’s no time but now to do certain things,” said Booker, who is African-American.

Kudos to Mayor Booker for seeing a point that the new president seems not to see so clearly--namely, that permitting indefensible prejudice to continue in the legal systems of our society harms not only those targeted by discriminatory regulations, but all of us. And to Alternet for calling for action.