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Obama's Got Milk
July 30, 2009 9:18 AM   Subscribe

On August 12, President Obama will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the nation's highest civilian honor -- to the late gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk. Lesbian tennis star Billy Jean King and Teddy Kennedy will also be honored that day. Previous recipients include Martin Luther King, Aung San Suu Kyi, Colin Powell (twice), Muhammad Ali, Mother Theresa, Elie Wiesel, Vint Cerf, George Tenet (Bush fail), Irving Kristol (WTF?) Dick Cheney, Walter Cronkite, Julia Child, and Lucille Ball. Now about that DOMA thing...
posted by digaman (89 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
More recipients announced, including Desmond Tutu, Stephen Hawking, and Rev. Joseph Lowery.
posted by digaman at 9:24 AM on July 30, 2009


Lucille Ball? WTF? Why not Jerry Lewis? At Least Julia was a spy.
posted by Gungho at 9:24 AM on July 30, 2009


Hey, Lucille Ball surely showed more people the way to freedom than Irving (wrong about everything but still a ubiquitous "expert" on Fox) Kristol.
posted by digaman at 9:26 AM on July 30, 2009


I hate to ask a stupid question, but...handing out medals to people who are long since dead? Huh?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:28 AM on July 30, 2009


Ahh politics. When high honors are bestowed to appease a voting group.
posted by TomMelee at 9:31 AM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's called posthumous recognition, jenfullmoon. Obama didn't invent this.
posted by digaman at 9:31 AM on July 30, 2009


Milksop to Cerberus.
posted by adipocere at 9:32 AM on July 30, 2009


Lucille Ball famously crusaded for Easter Seals.

As for the Milk thing, it's really great but it also seems to be the same sort of "too little, too late" thing that had dogged Obama on gay rights issues all along.

I know, I know, the perfect is the enemy of the good...
posted by hermitosis at 9:34 AM on July 30, 2009


For whatever reason he's still not doing the heavy lifting that he promised on lgbt issues.

He is with the gay community in terms of his appreciation of their votes and donations and his symbolic gestures. On other fronts, not so much.
posted by Danf at 9:34 AM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is this because the guy had a movie about him?
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:35 AM on July 30, 2009


I hate to ask a stupid question, but...handing out medals to people who are long since dead? Huh?

What's next? Waiting a few years to declare someone a saint? I mean, come on amirite!
posted by billysumday at 9:35 AM on July 30, 2009


To be fair TomMelee, I don't think it is our votes that they are concerned with. A discrete and insular minority with a megaphone, a fat wallet, and powerful allies are less dangerous at the ballot box than they are elsewhere...
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:36 AM on July 30, 2009


Hey, Lucille Ball surely showed more people the way to freedom than Irving (wrong about everything but still a ubiquitous "expert" on Fox) Kristol.

You're probably thinking of his son. But you're not wrong.
posted by L0 at 9:41 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


thirteenkiller, that must be it. Surely Idi Amin is next.
posted by digaman at 9:41 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


L0, you're so right. My mistake. I see the last name and my mind goes blank.
posted by digaman at 9:42 AM on July 30, 2009


Danf, I was just thinking about that too. Obama made all sorts of campaign promises, but gay issues have taken a back burner now that he's president, although it did seem like the upset over this finally led to some gay-friendly gestures like extending benefits to domestic partners of federal employees and maybe now this MoF thing.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:43 AM on July 30, 2009


Irving (wrong about everything but still a ubiquitous "expert" on Fox) Kristol.

You're probably thinking of his son. But you're not wrong.


hey, my poltics don't line up with Irving Kristol, but he's head and shoulders above his always-wrong, shill-for-a-son on Fox News.
posted by spaltavian at 9:46 AM on July 30, 2009


Dick Cheney? Say what now??
posted by contessa at 9:49 AM on July 30, 2009


It was back in 1991 when he was SecDef, when everyone liked invading Iraq.
posted by smackfu at 9:52 AM on July 30, 2009


For whatever reason, I read the FPP as Lesbian tennis stars Billy Jean King and Teddy Kennedy and was very confused about what point you were trying to make.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:53 AM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I thought we weren't supposed to talk about this stuff.

Naw, just kidding. Y'all don't get all tweaked that it's just a symbolic gesture. The Right Wing lives and dies by symbolism.

Just watch their reaction.

The Democrats really need to grow a pair and learn how to tweak the Republicans. Obama knows how to do it, but has to be judicious about it. Biden is pretty good at it.
posted by Xoebe at 9:54 AM on July 30, 2009


Hey, I'm not saying the movie is the ONLY reason for this, but a lot more people know about and care about Harvey Milk now than did before the movie - maybe even some in the Obama administration! At least the administration surely understands that the movie has impacted how this MoF gesture will be received and understood among Americans. I just think maybe it's not completely coincidental. Maybe it's got more to do with Obama's lack of movement on more substantive gay issues, though.
posted by thirteenkiller at 9:55 AM on July 30, 2009


Don't like to say bad things about O., but it seems easier for him to "recognize" gays with medals than to stand tall and do away with Don't Ask discrimination--

as for the many medals: quantity drives out quality.
posted by Postroad at 9:56 AM on July 30, 2009


I think it was my mom who told me she thinks he'll move on the LGBT stuff after there's some progress made on health care, since he wants to spend the lion's share of his political capital on that. He's biding his time on DOMA and DADT because right now he's trying to accomplish something more far-reaching, and once he makes health care more affordable/accessible, he'll use the goodwill earned from that to address the LGBT issues.

I don't know if I agree, since it's all dependent on health care being improved (and even if it was, we probably wouldn't notice the results for at least another year or so), but it's an interesting take.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:18 AM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bill takes after his mother.
posted by winna at 10:21 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The shitty thing about it is that, realistically. Milk probably deserves an award. The downside is that this will be seen as an entirely symbolic gesture to appease a vocal audience who has been vocally displeased with the failure to address issues that were promised them.

It's the too-little-too-late, what-are-your-ulterior-motives, perpetually second guessed cycle that presidents fall into. They all do, eventually.

Not sure why anyone thought this one would be any different.
posted by TomMelee at 10:23 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm too cynical, but this looks like a lame PR stunt to deflect the flak he's gotten for failing to uphold his campaign promises regarding gay rights. Shame on him.

(and now we see the brilliance of this move: because now people can come flame me with WHY DO YOU HATE HARVEY MILK?!)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:26 AM on July 30, 2009


Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment...
posted by TSOL at 10:27 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gotta hold their feet to the fire, TomMelee.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:27 AM on July 30, 2009


If I were the estate of Harey Milk, this would be my comment.

"We deeply resent the way the Obama Administration is using this award as a way of hiding his list of broken promises to the LGBT community. The award is rejected."
posted by eriko at 10:30 AM on July 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


It is entirely possible that I just don't understand circumstances enough to know much about the use of political capital in these cases, but it seems like EVERYONE wants healthcare fixed and most people are either against DADT or don't care so correct me if I am wrong but using political capital for this just doesn't seem like that big a deal to me. I am sick of saying "Isn't that nice!" whenever some minor step forward is made. I know it's been said before (and more eloquently than I am likely to express it) but seriously, what is the point of political capital if you're not going to use it to do anything worth doing? You can't invest it or save up for retirement or trade it in for a toaster.

I'm torn because on the one hand I am really, REALLY angry about the parade of symbolic and ultimately meaningless gestures, and on the other hand I'm getting sort of exhausted by my continued outrage. If someone can think of something practical I can do (other than write to elected representatives which I have done) I would be glad to hear of it. Otherwise I will continue to get really angry, shout at my television, sink into an exhausted and disheartened depression and continue the cycle next time something happens (or doesn't happen). This sucks.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:32 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like to have seen a little less bellyaching about what damaged goods Barack Obama is, the Mefi theme du jour, and a little more appreciation of the fact that Harvey Milk is getting a well-deserved honor. I don't think the honor is diminished by any of the political associations that are being piled upon it.
posted by blucevalo at 10:33 AM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Perhaps instead of handing out medals to dead people and celebrities, the Justice Department could, acting at Obama's behest, lead an investigation into US federal judge Benjamin H. Settle, for keeping Referendum 71 signatures — information which is a matter of record — away from public scrutiny. I would very much like to know Settle's political, personal and economic relationship with bigots like Larry Stickney and gay-hate groups like Protect Marriage Washington.

Giving a medal to Harvey Milk is great and all, but it will not stop the Stickney's of this country from cheating, lying, bullying and buying the public into taking away rights from everyday Americans. President Obama needs to step up in the fight against bigotry — with action, not words.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:35 AM on July 30, 2009


"We deeply resent the way the Obama Administration is using this award as a way of hiding his list of broken promises to the LGBT community. The award is rejected."

I don't think Milk was the type to turn his back on small victories out of spite for not getting the bigger prize fast enough.
posted by rocket88 at 10:39 AM on July 30, 2009 [9 favorites]


Yeah, Eriko, except that's a totally un-Harvey-like approach. Harvey exploited every opportunity to claim the spotlight and grab the big megaphone, which is why he deserves this award. He would have loved getting the medal, camping it up to the max and looking fabulous in his tuxedo with his husband at his side, announcing loudly at a huge press conference that it was time for Obama to repeal DOMA and DADT. A pissy rejection of the medal and the spectacle? Never.
posted by digaman at 10:41 AM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


hey, my poltics don't line up with Irving Kristol, but he's head and shoulders above his always-wrong, shill-for-a-son on Fox News.

Not so much:
Irving Kristol, a devoted follower of Strauss and father of neoconservatism, was delighted with the popularity of the film Rambo. He thought it was an indication that the people still love war; and that means that it will not be too difficult to lure them away from the animalistic pleasures that liberal society offers.
Wikipedia, quoting Irving:
"There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn't work."
Glenn Greenwald has something to say about both Kristols and their inspiration, Leo Strauss.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:42 AM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Perhaps instead of handing out medals to dead people and celebrities

The medals would be handed out whether Obama's DOJ started the investigation that you speak of or not. It's an annual event.
posted by blucevalo at 10:44 AM on July 30, 2009


I want to see somebody give Hillary Clinton the Freedom Medal for personally intervening to put pressure on the British intelligence not to disclose "information [regarding US torture policy] given by the CIA to a British court" because it "would damage the Anglo-American special relationship in intelligence matters"

Now, unlike Obama, there's someone, I'm sure, committed to taking a real progressive stand.

/seething irony
posted by saulgoodman at 10:46 AM on July 30, 2009


What's wrong with Obama? I mean, seriously. He's had seven whole months (almost) to deliver the goods, and everything's not fixed yet? Man, what a mistake in electing this guy. Seven months into Bush's presidency*, and he had already invaded Afghanistan, got the PATRIOT Act passed, signed No Child Left Behind, and (probably) provoked an unsuccessful coup attempt against Hugo Chavez. And Bush had to deal with that budget surplus and vibrant economy thing Clinton had left him, whereas Obama's only had a collapsed economy, two foreign quagmires, and health care reform on his plate. If only you'd voted in McCain, things would be completely different now. For one, he'd be on his second Vice President already.

*Assuming of course his actual presidency started Sept. 11, 2001. If you go by Jan. 20, about the only significant Bush accomplishment were his tax cuts for the rich.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:47 AM on July 30, 2009 [9 favorites]


HELPFUL SUMMARY OF THE REST OF THIS THREAD

Some posters: Obama has done some bad things and therefore I now hate him and everyone who disagrees with me is an apologist for Bush and also probably stabs babies in the throat

Some other posters: Obama is better than Bush and therefore I don't care what he does at all because I voted and that's all I had to do to participate in politics
posted by shakespeherian at 10:56 AM on July 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


It'd have been kind of fascinating to have seen what Audie Murphy and John Wayne leftovers McCain would have selected as Medal of Freedom recipients.
posted by blucevalo at 10:56 AM on July 30, 2009


I ask this in all seriousness, in particular to those upset with Obama about DOMA & DADT: What can Obama do about these things until the Congress passes legislation officially dismantling them?
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:59 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by Saxon Kane What can Obama do about these things until the Congress passes legislation officially dismantling them?

Ignore the overwrought harpies who are shrieking that this award is not enough and is a slap in the face to the GLBT community.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:08 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The medals would be handed out whether Obama's DOJ started the investigation that you speak of or not. It's an annual event.

Hypothetically, he could, for once, invoke that Executive Privilege that his predecessor was so fond of using, and suspend the ceremonies. But we need our empty symbolism, I guess. Preserves that facade of legitimacy, while back in the real world, the right-wing keeps chipping away at everyone's rights.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:11 AM on July 30, 2009


GhostintheMachine, if we seem hypercritical, it's because we think there's a chance this one could turn out well.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:19 AM on July 30, 2009


So Harvey Milk is good enough for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but if were still alive he still couldn't marry his partner or serve in the military? Ah. Got it.
posted by scody at 11:26 AM on July 30, 2009 [19 favorites]


Saxon Kane: Well, multiple legal scholars have pointed out that it's well within the President's authority as Commander in Chief to suspend DADT dismissals pending future action. But a large part of the problem is that Obama made big promises, something about being a "fierce advocate" prior to the election who would, if elected, facilitate the consensus to make a repeal of DOMA and DADT happen. Most of what we've seen since inauguration has been passing the buck, symbolic appeasement, procrastination, and stonewalling by Gibs. Stars and Stripes reported that the White House was not only waiting for Congress to act, it was quietly encouraging Congress to postpone action on DADT.

No one is expecting change in regards to DADT and DOMA in six months. The reasonable expectation is that Obama would live up to his campaign rhetoric of making change happen by negotiating bi-partisan consensus on the tough issues. The frustration comes from the impression that long and difficult process is being delayed or postponed. And while this might be to the benefit of Obama or the Democratic party as a whole, it's not for GLBT people who are facing discrimination now.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:48 AM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


A bit torn on this. I do have to admit that as far as empty, meaningless, woefully inadequate symbolic gestures go, this is a particularly nice one.
posted by webmutant at 11:57 AM on July 30, 2009


I ask this in all seriousness, in particular to those upset with Obama about DOMA & DADT: What can Obama do about these things until the Congress passes legislation officially dismantling them?

Personally, I'm not super upset yet with Obama regarding DOMA & DADT. I'll give him time. A lot of it. Even as far much as up to Jan 2011 (after the Nov. 2010 mid-term elections). But to answer your question: Congress and the President are often in natural opposition. You can't use that fact to absolve the President from his obligations - the whole point is that the pres. is supposed to lobby Congress - and if necessary spend some political capital - to get what he wants. What upsets people is that so far at least, he's made no movement in the direction of pressuring & cajoling Congress on DOMA & DADT. Simply doing nothing, and pointing the finger at Congress and clucking your tongue is not going to cut it. January 2011 is when I crank up the outrage, if there is still zero movement on DOMA & DADT. Earlier would be better, but I'm willing to wait until then - BUT NOT LONGER. Why not longer? Because you must have some pressure points - you can't let him think he's got your vote for 2012. Otherwise, there's always the argument "but wait until after the election" and so on until he's termed out... having done absolutely nothing. Which is why I give him a long good chance to line up his ducks and even accumulate power with the Nov. 2010 mid-terms... but not a day longer - then it's: PAY NOW.
posted by VikingSword at 12:04 PM on July 30, 2009


There is nothing wrong with Obama doing this. The wrong thing is in scody's post.
posted by digaman at 12:04 PM on July 30, 2009


Hypothetically, he could, for once, invoke that Executive Privilege that his predecessor was so fond of using, and suspend the ceremonies.

The Executive Privilege that pissed everyone the fuck off when Bush used it.

Whether or not it's a good thing, I think Matt Steinglass nails Obama's tactic:

I just wanted to point out that this has always been Obama’s MO. He’s always a step or two behind where his supporters want him to be, getting pulled along by their enthusiasm, rather than out ahead of them where he might get cut off. It’s a community organizer’s MO. You never get out ahead of your constituency. Instead you shape the playing field so that your constituency’s desires flow towards where you think they should go, and allow them to carry you along behind them.

I've been reading The Audacity of Hope, and it would shock me to see Obama to resort to top down "I'm the decider" manoeuvres. Certainly it bugs me when there is something I want him to do, but his way is to look for a groundswelling of support so that the average American is coming from a position of of course gay people should be allowed to serve in the military openly or why shouldn't anyone who loves someone get to marry them.

I sincerely hope that there's a bunch of loony right wing BS about giving this award to Harvey Milk that turns moderate thinkers away from stupid hate-based ideologies. And I sincerely hope that people seeing the highest civilian honor awarded to a gay man makes them realize that gay people doing all sorts of wonderful things, large and small, have long been a part of America.

Also, digaman is spot on here:

Yeah, Eriko, except that's a totally un-Harvey-like approach. Harvey exploited every opportunity to claim the spotlight and grab the big megaphone, which is why he deserves this award. He would have loved getting the medal, camping it up to the max and looking fabulous in his tuxedo with his husband at his side, announcing loudly at a huge press conference that it was time for Obama to repeal DOMA and DADT. A pissy rejection of the medal and the spectacle? Never.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:06 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


oneirodynia: The Executive Privilege that pissed everyone the fuck off when Bush used it.

Pardon, but it seems to me that there is a big difference between Bush thumbing his nose at the other two branches of government and saying, "why don't you come down here and make me?" vs. Obama using powers that have been explicitly granted to him by Congress to manage government services and enforcement of the UCMJ.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:15 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Or to put it another way, the fact that Bush (arguably following the lead set by the Iran-Contra chums of his father) used invented and rhetorical executive privileges as an excuse to openly defy the checks and balances of power does not mean that the Executive can't or shouldn't use the powers granted by Congress and the Constitution.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:28 PM on July 30, 2009


I think once Dick Cheney receives a medal, that medal then serves more as an insult than a commendation.
posted by Dr. Send at 12:44 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suspect that Obama is focusing his first term on the biggest issues that face all of us as a nation (health care, education, economy, energy), and leaving the other stuff, LGBT included, to a second term. That way, if people get pissed off at him for openly and blatantly supporting gays it won't cost him the next election, because there won't be a next election for him at that point. And at the same time, he's doing little things to sort of prep the country for more openness to the LGBT community once he *does* start making those moves, and I really do think he will. He's just more of a long-term strategic thinker. Pushing it now might gain some tactical success (gays have federal rights, yay!), but might cost us all in the long term (nobody has health care and global warming's gonna fry us all, boo!).
posted by jamstigator at 1:59 PM on July 30, 2009


I think once Dick Cheney receives a medal, that medal then serves more as an insult than a commendation.

He already has a medal. Where his heart should be.
posted by srboisvert at 1:59 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


He already has a medal. Where his heart should be.

Nice speech, Eve...
posted by greekphilosophy at 2:13 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sure, on the other hand, advocates of basic justice and human rights are not at all obligated to put their agenda on hold because it might embarrass the ruling party. As the truism goes, "justice delayed is justice denied."

And its not like we are talking about a tiny little office here. We are talking about a lawmaking machine of thousands of people delegated to dozens of committees, subcommittees, agencies, and commissions. Remember when McCain pulled the big publicity stunt of "stopping" his campaign to solve a problem that wasn't even in his house, and he wouldn't be on that committee if it was? The same principle applies. Most congresscritters have nothing to do with health care or global warming beyond self-promotional speeches and a vote. There is absolutely no reason why DOMA, DADT, and ENDA can't run in the same session as health care or financial reform.

And I'll argue that it must because I don't see any of the reform projects proposed by Democrats as achievable in a single year in the current environment.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:50 PM on July 30, 2009


There is absolutely no reason why DOMA, DADT, and ENDA can't run in the same session as health care or financial reform.

Unless you mean political reasons, in which case there are hundreds. And to the zombies in Congress, those are the only reasons that matter.
posted by blucevalo at 2:56 PM on July 30, 2009


blucevalo: Unless you mean political reasons, in which case there are hundreds. And to the zombies in Congress, those are the only reasons that matter.

Such as? Reform of DADT is supported by a supermajority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans. ENDA is also supported by a majority of voters. Both of those votes are considerably less risk than what the health care plan is shaping up to be.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:08 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't believe there has been only one oblique reference to the odd part about Ted Kennedy getting this medal? I mean, he has done some very good things, but one particular night, he got drunk, had a little car wreck, left a girl in the car underwater, Didn't report it, and went to bed. When the body was found the next day, he had a half-assed story, and many think if he had gone for help when the wreck occurred she might have lived.

Does he really deserve a presidential medal?
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:24 PM on July 30, 2009


Kennedy's getting the medal for what he's accomplished in the 40 years since then, Anti.
posted by digaman at 3:33 PM on July 30, 2009


Shame Mary Joe didn't have the last 40 years to earn one herself. Hopefully Ted's will take care of that for her.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 3:46 PM on July 30, 2009


Yeah, Eriko, except that's a totally un-Harvey-like approach. Harvey exploited every opportunity to claim the spotlight and grab the big megaphone, which is why he deserves this award.

No, Harvey would have gone up, taken the medal, and thrown it in the trash in disgust at the transparent attempt to buy him off, in full view of the press.

Scody nails it. It's okay to reward Milk for standing up for human rights, because he's *dead* and can't do any real damage to the Administration. It's *not* ok for him to marry his partner or serve his country in uniform.

No one is expecting change in regards to DADT and DOMA in six months.

DOMA? No, that requires Congress. DADT?

"General Order #17. The Policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is no longer in force. No command under my authority is allowed to discharge or punish any homosexual member of the US Armed Forces.

Signed

President Barack Obama
Commander in Chief of the United States
posted by eriko at 5:19 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Both of those votes are considerably less risk than what the health care plan is shaping up to be.

Considerably less risk is not the same as zero risk. You seem to believe that Congress takes risks.
posted by blucevalo at 6:41 PM on July 30, 2009


I think I safely speak for everybody here when I say that when my great-grandmother was only halfway-born, she didn’t figure she was getting her eyes shot out in six world wars single-handedly lugging howitzers uphill both ways barefoot in winter on polio-riddled legs just so some god-damned Hawaiian could receive the majority vote in a democratic election process to determine president, and then hand out awards to dead homosexuals. Shame on you, America.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:16 PM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


So no more awards for the gays. That's a step in the wrong direction. Got it.

Let's just eat Obama already and get it over with, suckers.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:26 AM on July 31, 2009


So no more awards for the gays. That's a step in the wrong direction. Got it.

That's a somewhat narrow reading of the concerns some people have, don't you think?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on July 31, 2009


The concern is that politicians have been making symbolic gestures towards respect for GLBT people while dragging their feet in regards to reforms that might actually make more than a symbolic difference. Giving honors and signing proclamations is cheap. A more substantial change like expanding same-sex partnership benefits for federal employees is more challenging, but actually delivers benefits for thousands of people and opens the door for future reforms.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:03 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by Blazecock Pileon [no more awards for the gays. That's a step in the wrong direction] is a somewhat narrow reading of the concerns some people have, don't you think?

Not really, seeing as how you're the one who twice suggested suspending the ceremony:

posted by Blazecock Pileon Perhaps instead of handing out medals to dead people and celebrities, the Justice Department could, acting at Obama's behest, lead an investigation into US federal judge Benjamin H. Settle...

posted by Blazecock Pileon Hypothetically, [Obama] could, for once, invoke that Executive Privilege that his predecessor was so fond of using, and suspend the ceremonies.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:30 AM on July 31, 2009


I don't know why anyone would think that pointing out the rank hypocrisy of the move is somehow hysterical or overwrought. I mean, seriously, imagine if at the time Martin Luther King Jr. received his honor posthumously in 1977, lunch counters were still segregated -- and, moreover, that Jimmy Carter had promised during his 1976 campaign to desegregate them.
posted by scody at 11:50 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by scody I don't know why anyone would think that pointing out the rank hypocrisy of the move is somehow hysterical or overwrought.

I don't know why anyone thinks president Obama's failure to act on the issues of marriage equality and DADT should mean Harvey Milk should not be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for Milk's achievements in improving the human condition.
posted by mattdidthat at 12:00 PM on July 31, 2009


I don't know why anyone thinks president Obama's failure to act on the issues of marriage equality and DADT should mean Harvey Milk should not be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for Milk's achievements in improving the human condition.

I don't know where, in this thread, anyone said any such thing. I think it's great that Harvey Milk is receiving the award. But the honor rings pretty damn hollow when 30 years after Milk's murder LBGT folks in America still don't enjoy the full civil rights enjoyed by those of us who happen to be straight, and when the man bestowing the award has declined to act in any substantive way on the urgency of granting those civil rights.
posted by scody at 1:19 PM on July 31, 2009


d'oh, LGBT
posted by scody at 1:20 PM on July 31, 2009


I don't know why anyone thinks president Obama's failure to act on the issues of marriage equality and DADT should mean Harvey Milk should not be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for Milk's achievements in improving the human condition.

There is an obvious conflict of interest in giving an award for promotion of civil rights, and treating those same civil rights as politically toxic, to be postponed for better weather. The best way to honor Milk's legacy would be to actively make his politics a reality in federal law.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:35 PM on July 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't know why anyone thinks president Obama's failure to act on the issues of marriage equality and DADT should mean Harvey Milk should not be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for Milk's achievements in improving the human condition.

Maybe it's because you don't understand what gay people have to go through. Perhaps it's a lack of perspective on your part, to not see the inherently contradictory and patronizing tone of such an award, not to mention in your own comments in this thread.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:51 PM on July 31, 2009


I used to think most mefites were unsatisfied with Bush's policies and wanted an improvement. Now I think they're just plain unsatisfied.
If Obama still hasn't moved on these issues by the end of his mandate, I'll join you in condemning the man for breaking promises. You seriously expect that DOMA and DADT should be top priority in his first few months in office?
posted by rocket88 at 2:26 PM on July 31, 2009


You seriously expect that DOMA and DADT should be top priority in his first few months in office?

I expect it to be more important than choosing a dog or sitting down for a beer summit, both of which he spent more time on than ending LGBT discrimination since taking office.
posted by scody at 2:52 PM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The fact we still have work to do does not mean Harvey Milk's legacy and the work he did should not be honored. The fact president Obama has failed to address marriage equality and the DADT policy within the first six months of his presidency does not mean the ceremony should be postponed or the receipient should throw the medal in the trash.

I know you're having trouble understanding, but the presidential Medal of Freedom is being awarded to Harvey Milk for his achievements. It is is not being awarded to president Obama for finishing the work Harvey Milk began. While the award may appear hypocritical in its timing with regards to the equality we have yet to achieve, it's worth noting--to scody's point--that when Martin Luther King was given the award in 1977 for his achievements, we were still in the early stages of implementing affirmative action--and we're still doing so. The process is long, and change takes time.

As stated upthread, the ceremony is an excellent opportunity to graciously accept the award, and then gently remind the attendees of the work that lies ahead and how president Obama needs to address marriage equality. I'm confident Harvey Milk would have seen the award as an opportunity to win people to his side, and we won't get that with idiotic, sanctimonious, stridently absurd stunts like demanding the ceremony be postponed or throwing the medal in the trash or rejecting it outright.

I'm willing to give president Obama the benefit of the doubt and believe that he'll address marriage equality and other issues of equality at some point during his presidency, but if he fails, I'll join you in criticizing him for failing to change a glaringly obvious and egregious flaw in our civil rights.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:02 PM on July 31, 2009


criticizing him for failing to change correct
posted by mattdidthat at 3:04 PM on July 31, 2009


I know you're having trouble understanding

You should put your snide commentary on a t-shirt, given your chronic, almost inability to comprehend what scody and I were saying, if not rewording them entirely. That's even looking aside your ignoring KirkJobSluder's cogent points.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:16 PM on July 31, 2009


I know you're having trouble understanding, but the presidential Medal of Freedom is being awarded to Harvey Milk for his achievements.

I know you're having problems not being condescending, but I understand that perfectly.

it's worth noting--to scody's point--that when Martin Luther King was given the award in 1977 for his achievements, we were still in the early stages of implementing affirmative action--and we're still doing so.

Yes, but let's be clear about our history, shall we? The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Act were passed in 1964 and 1965 respectively, a few years years before King's death and 12 years before Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Jim Crow was legally ended during King's lifetime in part because of the movement he led; affirmative action and other such measures in the 1970s were certainly a necessary continuation of the movement for racial equality, but the most pernicious legal statutes that relegated African Americans to second-class citizenship were no longer on the books, either at the state or federal level.

Imagine, however, that King didn't receive his award for another 20 years after his death, and that the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts had still not passed -- and that the president giving King his award had declined to act on those bills until "later," citing more urgent concerns.
posted by scody at 3:21 PM on July 31, 2009


(curse you, mysterious cut-off final sentence) If you imagine that situation, then perhaps you may begin to comprehend some of the objections in this thread.
posted by scody at 3:25 PM on July 31, 2009


rocket88: You seriously expect that DOMA and DADT should be top priority in his first few months in office?

Each month that these policies are still in effect equates to thousands of lives affected by discrimination. Advocates for basic civil rights and equality have no obligation to let the White House set the timetable for fundamental justice.

And of course, as pointed out multiple times in this thread. No, there is no expectation that those will be "top priorities" for the White House. However, the White House has not even started the process of creating the legislative consensus it promised during the campaign. Not only that, but some sources have suggested that the White House, motivated by a desire to keep DADT off the table for this legislative session, is actively working against gay rights groups who are working on building that consensus.

mattdidthat: I know you're having trouble understanding, but the presidential Medal of Freedom is being awarded to Harvey Milk for his achievements.

How do you reward someone for their achievements while quietly working to make certain those achievements are not fulfilled? And pardon, but scody specifically did not write that. What scody specifically referred to was that it would have been an outrage to award a medal to King in an environment of legally-supported segregation, which was abolished in 1964. Which is about where we are now in terms of gay rights, with laws on the books mandating different legal treatment for heterosexual and homosexual people.

mattdidthat: I'm willing to give president Obama the benefit of the doubt and believe that he'll address marriage equality and other issues of equality at some point during his presidency, but if he fails, I'll join you in criticizing him for failing to change a glaringly obvious and egregious flaw in our civil rights.

Pardon, but we know from long experience that blind faith that elected politicians will extend their benevolence from proclamations and honors to actual legal change does not work. What does work is consistent pressure, criticism, and comment that discrimination is still the law of the land, and justice won't be achieved until those laws are overturned.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:25 PM on July 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I understand the objections. I don't agree with them.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:27 PM on July 31, 2009


In other news, Referendum 71 gets enough signatures that it will probably end up on Washington ballots this fall. This referendum aims to take away rights from same-sex couples in a state that has side-stepped the marriage rights issue altogether.

During the award ceremony honoring the late Harvey Milk, I hope that President Obama takes the time to help make the entire country aware of this referendum, which aims to take away existing rights, never mind DOMA.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:47 PM on July 31, 2009


posted by Blazecock Pileon Perhaps instead of handing out medals to dead people and celebrities, the Justice Department could, acting at Obama's behest, lead an investigation into US federal judge Benjamin H. Settle, for keeping Referendum 71 signatures — information which is a matter of record — away from public scrutiny. I would very much like to know Settle's political, personal and economic relationship with bigots like Larry Stickney and gay-hate groups like Protect Marriage Washington.

You might want to ask your Attorney General about that:

Signatures on initiative and referendum petitions are not public records.The secretary of state should only permit inspection of such petitions by persons authorized to attend the canvass of the names and prosecuting attorneys contemplating criminal prosecutions.
posted by mattdidthat at 4:03 PM on July 31, 2009


(That opinion is dated 1956. I don't know if the current AG has a different opinion.)
posted by mattdidthat at 4:05 PM on July 31, 2009


"Earlier Wednesday, the Secretary of State's Office had said that while it has no statutory authority to withhold the names it also did not plan to contest the effort to temporarily block their release. No one from the state Attorney General's Office was present at the hearing." [emph. added]
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:11 PM on July 31, 2009


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