President Obama: Was It a One-Night Stand? It Wasn't Love at First Sight, but Author Dan Savage Warmed Up to Barack Obama. Now He's Wondering If All the Promises the Candidate Whispered in His Ear Were Just to Get Him into the Electoral Sack

By Savage, Dan | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), September 2009 | Go to article overview

President Obama: Was It a One-Night Stand? It Wasn't Love at First Sight, but Author Dan Savage Warmed Up to Barack Obama. Now He's Wondering If All the Promises the Candidate Whispered in His Ear Were Just to Get Him into the Electoral Sack


Savage, Dan, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


WE COULD START WITH THE BETRAYALS and the slights-the Reverend Rick Warren, 265 (and counting) gay men and lesbians kicked out of the military since Barack Obama was sworn in, the now-infamous DOMA brief that compared gay marriage to incest and pedophilia-but maybe we should start by remembering the good times.

Hey, remember when Barack Obama couldn't get his tongue any further up our butts?

Remember when he practically spooned Melissa Etheridge during the Logo-Human Rights Campaign debate? Remember when he positioned himself to the left of Hillary Clinton on the Defense of Marriage Act? While Clinton came out in favor of a partial repeal, Obama said he favored-and would fight for-a complete repeal, and described DOMA as "abhorrent."

That was pretty sweet.

Then there was Barack Obama's open letter to the gay community. "Equality is a moral imperative," candidate Obama wrote, before reiterating his promise to repeal DOMA. He also promised to end "don't ask, don't tell," to pressure Congress to pass the Matthew Shepard hate-crimes act, and to lift the HIV travel ban. And then this line in particular jumped out at me, as it must have for other gay parents: "As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws."

But the highlight of the campaign for me came during the vice-presidential debate. An Obama-Biden administration would support civil unions for same-sex couples, Joe Biden said, adding that there should be "no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint" between same-sex and opposite-sex couples (except for the "marriage/civil unions" distinction). When Sarah Palin said that she didn't support same-sex marriage either and that she agreed with Biden that the federal government shouldn't "do anything to prohibit" visitation or other rights, Biden moved in for the kill: "I take her at her word, obviously, that she thinks there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple."

Ah, those were good times.

But then Obama was sworn in under Rick Warren's porcine gaze and the "fierce urgency of now" quickly morphed, in Andrew Sullivan's damning turn of phrase, into the "fierce urgency of whenever." Never mind that gay people are being turned away from their partners' bedsides during medical emergencies now. Never mind that people are being kicked out of the military now. Never mind that Arkansas banned adoptions by same-sex couples on the very same day that Obama was elected. (Gosh, where's that bully pulpit when you need it?) The man who wasn't afraid to appeal directly to us for our votes as a candidate-and certainly wasn't shy about asking us for our dollars-couldn't be bothered to acknowledge the promises he had made to us and seemed to greatly resent being asked to actually honor them.

The difference between candidate Obama and President Obama crystallized for me when NBC's Brian Williams asked the president if "gay and lesbian couples who wish to marry ... have a friend in the White House?" The comfort candidate Obama demonstrated with gay people and issues was gone. I don't remember exactly what the president said, but I will never forget the look on his face. Judging from his pained and slightly annoyed expression, you would have thought that Williams put the question to him in a suppository form.

Have you ever been introduced to someone with whom you'd had a torrid one-night stand and he acted like he didn't know you? "Don't know me?" you're tempted to say in a loud voice. "Honey, you ate my ass."

Could Barack Obama be that one-night stand?

I STARTED SCREAMING AND YELLING about Barack weeks before his Department of Justice chose to celebrate the beginning of Gay Pride Month by defending DOMA, leaning on every bigoted argument against marriage equality that Pat Robertson ever advanced.

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