Socarides: ‘the bottom line is the government continues to oppose full equality for its gay citizens’

As John reported last night, the Obama administration is still defending DOMA in the courts. The President and his Department of Justice don’t have to do it, but they are. And, that’s just wrong. I don’t think this counts as “evolving.”

From Ben Smith:

Gay groups are furious with a Justice Department brief defending — though in quite narrow terms — the Defense of Marriage Act, which Candidate Obama, unlike even his Democratic rivals, had pledged to repeal in full.

“DOMA is supported by rationales that constitute a sufficient rational basis for the law. For example, as explained below, it is supported by an interest in maintaining the status quo and uniformity on the federal level, and preserving room for the development of policy in the states,” says the government’s brief (.pdf) in two cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The brief focuses solely on the virtues of keeping the federal law while state’s experiment, and not the underlying question of marriage.

The half-heartedness of that defense didn’t offer much solace to activists who — despite the Justice Department’s traditional role defending federal laws — are demanding that Obama return to the full support for same-sex marriage that he advocated in the 1990s.

“There are some improvements in tone in the brief, but the bottom line is the government continues to oppose full equality for its gay citizens,” said Equality Matters chief Richard Socarides in an email. “And that is unacceptable.”

Completely unacceptable. And, this is going to be a problem for the reelection campaign. Soon-to-be Campaign Manager Jim Messina is going to have to figure this one out. The President is going to have to be clear about his full support for marriage equality.




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SLDN’s Comm Director Trevor Thomas joins Socarides, Eleveld at Equality Matters

This evening I received an email from Trevor Thomas, the ace communications director at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network announcing his move to Equality Matters, the new rapid-response LGBT venture of Media Matters for America. He will serve as Programs Director alongside President Richard Socarides and online editor Kerry Eleveld; he starts at EqM on January 24th. (MetroWeekly): Socarides:

“He is an incredible advocate and forthright spokesperson. We are excited he has agreed to join us and continue his work on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at Equality Matters.”

In an email sent this evening to friends and colleagues that he gave permission for Metro Weekly to publish, he wrote of his time at SLDN, “When I arrived to SLDN, I viewed it broadly as another gay rights group.  It didn’t take long to recognize SLDN was a military group first and foremost.  For so many on the staff and board, ending ‘Don’t Ask’ was deeply personal. Many of them were discharged or served in fear and silence.

“In my own life, my brother Ricky enlisted in the United States Army at age 18. My father served in the 126th Infantry of the Michigan National Guard. And my grandfather served as a U.S. Army Corporal during World War II. I’ve been fortunate to find my own road to pay it forward.”

***

On a semi-related note, as Kerry Eleveld wraps up her stint at The Advocate, don’t miss her latest interview — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A snippet:

Feeling your way through an interview with one of the world’s most powerful women is more art than science. Marriage seemed like the place to start, since Clinton had been caught off guard by a recent inquiry on the issue while visiting Australia. Her husband has said that he now supports full marriage equality: Many of his gay friends are in committed relationships, former president Bill Clinton said in 2009. As far as marriage goes, he said, he had just been “hung up about the word.”

Did she share his experience? I wondered. Was she at odds with President Barack Obama’s stated position in support of civil unions but against marriage equality?

But on the phone, Clinton is circumspect about her husband’s comments. “Well, I share his experience because we obviously share a lot of the same friends, but I have not changed my position,” she says without elaborating. The secretary wasn’t taking any political bait, nor was she going to tangle with anything that could figure negatively for her boss.

Clinton’s chief of staff and counselor, Cheryl Mills, had modeled the same on-message discipline when I sat down with her a few weeks earlier, avoiding any comparison between the secretary’s movement on LGBT issues and the president’s. Mills and Clinton have been friends for nearly 20 years, dating back to when Mills served as deputy White House counsel for President Clinton. She arrived on the national stage as part of a legal team defending the president during the 1999 impeachment trial. A quick Google search of Mills’s name turns up the crux of her argument, spoken on the Senate floor from the perspective of an African-American woman: “I’m not worried about civil rights, because this president’s record on civil rights, on women’s rights, on all of our rights, is unimpeachable…. I stand here before you today because President Bill Clinton believed I could stand here for him.”

(Note/disclaimer and all that jazz – I am a member of the Equality Matters advisory board.)
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Richard Socarides “Glass Half Full”

Some other miscellaneous news from ABC before we get to the interview with Socarides from Equality Matters.

Glass half full or empty? Republican candidate in primary for gay marriage? Lots to chew the fat about in Socarides remarks.

Socarides is right that Obama could do a lot to move the issue of gay marriage forward. I hope the President has learned from Don’t Ask Don’t Tell that being tepid, providing the conservative’s positions with cover and legitimacy and playing defense does not work with the question of civil rights. True leadership on civil rights questions requires boldness and unapologetic pronouncements that it is the right thing for America to do period, and those that stand in the way will be painting themselves into a corner and destroying their future political legacies. If you don’t believe me then ask Sam Nunn. No amount of reversing positions and claiming “I was just kidding” totally fixes the reputations of bigots when their homophobic routine has been proven to be a big hysterical “Chicken Little” dance that destroyed thousands of American lives, and careers while damaging our international reputation with our more progressive allies, and hurting our national security.




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Watch: David Brock and Richard Socarides Discuss Conservative and Political Opposition to LGBT Equality

Hardball_matters

David Brock and Richard Socarides of Equality Matters appeared on Hardball last night to discuss opposition to lgbt equality.

Said Brock: "I was in the right wing then and I knew what they were doing then and I know what they're doing now. It's a phony wedge, culture war issue for the right wing. For their base. They exploit gay people and they exploit the fear of gay people to gin up their base. That's what they do…It's a totally cynical thing. I know, I was in the right wing, so that's what's going on here."

Brock, a former Republican, also said it was "self-loathing" that contributed to his political views at the time.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP


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Video: Brock, Socarides, Matthews talk the politics of basic decency



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Media Matters starts Equality Matters, ‘war room for gay equality,’ run by Socarides and Eleveld

Breaking, exciting news on the activism front via Sheryl Gay Stolberg at the New York Times. Media Matters is creating a new entity focusing on LGBT equality called Equality Matters. The really big news is that the organization will be run by our good friends, Richard Socarides and Kerry Eleveld:

As gay people around the country reveled on Sunday in the historic Senate vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a liberal media watchdog group said it planned to announce on Monday that it was setting up a “communications war room for gay equality” in an effort to win the movement’s next and biggest battle: for a right to same-sex marriage.

The new group, Equality Matters, grew out of Media Matters, an organization backed by wealthy liberal donors — including prominent gay philanthropists — that has staked its claim in Washington punditry with aggressive attacks on Fox News and conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

It will be run by Richard Socarides, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton who has been deeply critical of President Obama’s record on gay rights. A well-known gay journalist, Kerry Eleveld, the Washington correspondent for The Advocate, will leave that newspaper in January to edit the new group’s Web site, equalitymatters.org, which is to go online Monday morning.

Both Richard and Kerry are already important voices for equality. Having them in these new roles is going to be an amazing asset.

I have to give a very special shout out to Kerry, who has become one of my best friends. Having her in the White House press briefing room for the past two years has been incredibly important. She’s obviously an excellent journalist:

“I’ve spent the past two years with a front-row seat to history, and the longer I sat there the more I felt drawn to participating,” Ms. Eleveld said in an interview.

Next month, when she makes the transition to activism, she can participate. And, we’ll have an excellent new advocate.

Petey loves her and the feeling is mutual:




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Socarides explains why ‘Equality Matters’ as HRC says

Last night, we posted the news that Media Matters was setting up a new entity, Equality Matters, which will be headed by Richard Socarides and Kerry Eleveld. In a post on the organization’s blog, Socarides explains the group’s mission:

Our culture is changing rapidly. Most Americans believe that gays and lesbians are entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens, including now over 50 percent who believe in marriage equality.

We see other signs of progress too. For example, Ricky Martin, one of the biggest pop music stars of all time and Ken Mehlman, a former Republican Party chair turned Wall Street banker, felt comfortable enough to publicly proclaim their sexuality. Now, the gay high school kid on Fox’s Glee has a great, show-stealing boyfriend. A New Jersey teenager’s suicide gave new poignancy to a PSA campaign in which Americans from all walks of life, famous and not, spoke openly and candidly in record numbers about what it means to be gay and how “it gets better” – thanks to activist and writer Dan Savage.

In Washington, however, we have missed opportunities and have not so far been able to transform favorable public opinion into the powerful and undeniable force for change that it should have been. We believe that the moment for decisive action for full gay equality is here — that this moment is a historic imperative. The goal of Equality Matters is to leverage our expertise in media and communications, and politics and policy, to support those who share that belief and help create an environment where policymakers, the courts, the media and the public at large understand that gay rights are human rights.

Despite the important victory we have just witnessed, make no mistake about it: we are still the only class of Americans for whom discrimination is codified into state and federal law. We have a lot of work to do.

They intend to hold everyone accountable. That’s a welcome and needed change.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Eleveld and Socarides talk DADT on ‘A View from the Hill’

Here’s another segment of The Advocate’s show, A View from the Hill. Kerry Eleveld and Richard Socarides have an in-depth discussion about DADT:




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Olbermann talks the hurdles facing DADT repeal with Richard Socarides

Keith talked about tomorrow’s vote on the Defense Authorization bill and the Lady Gaga rally. Richard Socarides explained what’s going on with DADT repeal and the forces working against it. Their strategy is stall and delay. If we don’t succeed, he said, “it will be a horrific fraud on the American people and really a massive failure of leadership at the Pentagon, at Congress and even at the White House because they waited too long.” Yep. Massive failure.

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Oh, the White House did issue statement supporting the Defense bill today. Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade got it:

“The National Defense Authorization Act is a good bill that is important for the overall health and well being of our forces, especially given the ongoing campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world,” White House spokesperson Shin Inouye said in a statement. “This legislation received bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the President hopes it receives similar bipartisan support in the Senate.”

You might have thought something of this import, you know, the Defense Authorization bill while we’re fighting two wars, would warrant a statement from the President. Nope. Shin took care of it. Actually, from what I’ve been able to glean, that statement is pretty much the entire lobbying effort from the White House on the Defense bill and DADT repeal. Massive failure.

UPDATE @ 10:39 PM: Shortly after I wrote this post, I was informed by someone involved with this process that the White House is not lobbying fence-sitting senators to reach the magic 60 votes. Here’s what I was told:

As we all know, without a fierce effort and person-to-person advocacy from Obama himself (or at least his senior-most staff), Senators have little reason to change their minds and support debating the Defense Authorization bill. Never did I think I’d see the day when Lady Gaga would do more to advocate for repeal of DADT than our president who campaigned on equality.

It’s stunning really. And, they wonder why the base is depressed.




AMERICAblog Gay

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Oops, Richard Socarides Again Forgot to Mention He Was a Party To Creating DADT

There are two things we should all be insisting on from President Obama and Attorney General Holder right now. We all need to be united about this as a community. One, there is no excuse, and there can be none, for the continued enforcement of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, even in a scaled down version. The president says he's against it, the American people are against it, it hurts our national security, and now a federal court has ruled it violates our sacred constitution. This insanity must end now. There must be a complete and immediate end to all DADT discharges. Second, there is no valid legal (or political) reason to pursue an appeal. There is no legal obligation to continue to defend a law declared unconstitutional by a sitting federal judge. We must insist on an unequivocal statement from the president that he will allow the ruling to stand, because it is in accordance with his long held view, but more importantly, because doing so is consistent with our constitution. We must expect and demand no less from him. No appeal. Let this ruling become the law of the land.

—Richard Socarides, the former Clinton LGBT adviser described by Americablog as somebody who is "often on tv and is widely quoted on LGBT issues," as if that's a litmus test for being respectable, continuing to ignore his own personal involvement in CREATING DON'T ASK DON'T TELL as he pleas with President Obama's attorneys not to appeal the ruling that branded the law unconstitutional.

CONTINUED »


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