President Obama announced a relaxation of illegal immigration enforcement policies yesterday and spoke at an LGBT Pride event, but he nonetheless left the supporters of gay marriage wondering if he cares more about Latinos than the LGBT voters in this election year.
"Americans may be still evolving when it comes to marriage equality -- (laughter and applause) but as I've indicated personally, Michelle and I have made up our minds on this issue," Obama said yesterday at the White House. "So we still have a long way to go, but we will get there" -- "there," obviously, being the legalization of gay marriage that Obama half-heartedly supported in May.
Obama also told them that he "would never counsel patience," as he compared the push for gay marriage to the civil rights movement. "After decades of inaction and indifference, you have every reason and right to push, loudly and forcefully, for equality," Obama said at the Pride event.
But the day's events nonetheless left some in Obama's LGBT constituency wondering if he is choosing -- in an election year, at least -- to push "loudly and forcefully" policies that might endear him to Latino base while refusing to go to bat for the (much smaller) LGBT constituency.
"President Obama's administration has absolutely taken the right step today in extending the American dream to undocumented youth across this country," Robin McGehee, executive director of GetEQUAL, an LGBT organization. "And as the president hosts LGBT advocates at the White House today to celebrate LGBT Pride Month, we call on President Obama to issue the Executive Order that we have been calling for since the beginning of the year -- an Executive Order to bar discrimination by federal contractors based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
Obama has refused to issue such an order (he called for Congress to pass the relevant legislation during his speech yesterday.
And yet, Obama has demonstrated little respect before congressional authority. (Most recently, he decided to circumvent illegal mmigration laws by deploying executive power for a policy that he regards as "the right thing to do.")
With both the illegal immigration announcement and the "personal" support for gay marriage, though, Obama failed to deliver what those two consituencies actually want from him. He did not endorse gay marriage as a civil right. He did not pass amnesty through comprehensive immigration reform. And so, he avoided the political risks that would have come with those policy positions.
Obama did even less for the LGBT constituency than he did for the Latino voting bloc, but tried in both cases to do enough to help himself win a second term. Obama catered to both portions of his base in a manner designed to maximize their support while avoiding the political risks that come with identifying himself with their goals.