HRC's Sainz Lowers Expectations for LGBT Americans at SOTU

Posted by Chris Geidner
January 24, 2011 3:48 PM |

On Friday, Jan. 21, Human Rights Campaign vice president Fred Sainz told The New York Times, "This past year Americans were confronted with the epidemic of bullying against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people that goes on in our schools. The State of the Union address would be an appropriate time for the president to assert leadership on this moral issue and call on all schools to address the problem head on."

That itself was a lower bar for President Barack Obama than others -- hoping for a presidential statement seeking the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act or even announcing his personal support for marriage equality -- had set.

Today, however, Sainz was talking down the importance of Tuesday's State of the Union address at all, telling Metro Weekly, "The State of the Union is just that. It is not an exhaustive accounting of all the administration's priorities or responsibilities over the year."

He added, "There are plenty of other speech opportunities that the president has over the year."

Among other topics, Sainz said he wished for Obama to include "his evolution toward marriage equality," "evidence of his support of equality for all Americans, including LGBT Americans, including employment protections" and "the importance of safe schools for all American children."

But, ratcheting down expectations again, he noted, "I just don't think that this is a speech that we should put all our eggs in this basket." The comment is notable coming not just from any LGBT organization but from the spokesman for the LGBT group known, and often criticized, for its close relationship with the White House.

In terms of the broader expectations for the speech, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today said Obama would "spend most of his time talking about the economy, talking about the challenges that we face both in the short term in terms of doing whatever we can to help create jobs, in the medium and long term to continue working on issues like competitiveness and innovation, and ensuring that in the medium and the long term we get our fiscal house in order."

On LGBT issues, Sainz did note, "I believe that whether it's in the president's speech or not, that keeping a discussion of marriage equality front and center is important."

A White House aide confirmed this morning to Metro Weekly the report from ABC News that Daniel Hernandez Jr. -- the out gay, Hispanic college student who came to the aide of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) -- would be attending the State of the Union.

The expectations that Sainz appears to be bringing to the State of the Union -- low to none -- would mark a stark contrast to last year, when Obama laid out his commitment to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

On Jan. 27, 2010, Obama told the nation, "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."

That was followed up days later by the testimony of Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in support of DADT repeal, which set off the year of debate that ended with Obama signing the DADT Repeal Act into law on Dec. 22, 2010.

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