Obama Quietly Expanding Gay Rights

Barack Obama is not the socialist that those on the far right claim he is. He is also not the conservative that many on the far left also believe he is. Obama has compiled a strong liberal record by pushing through many reforms under the radar, which is often necessary with the amount of polarization in this country. While Obama lags behind many of his supporters in failing to support full marriage equality, he is quietly compiling a strong record of expanding gay rights. The Washington Post reports:

In the past year and a half, President Obama has quietly used his powers to expand federal rights and benefits for gays and lesbians, targeting one government restriction after another in an attempt to change public policy while avoiding a confrontation with Republicans and opponents of gay rights.

The result is that scores of federal rules blocking gay rights have been swept aside or reinterpreted by Obama officials eager to advance the agenda of a constituency that strongly backed the president’s 2008 campaign.

Among the changes: Gay partners of federal workers will now receive long-term health insurance, access to day care and other benefits. Federal Housing Authority loans can no longer consider the sexual orientation of applicants. The Census Bureau plans to report the number of people who report being in a same-sex relationship. Hospitals must allow gays to visit their ill partners. And federal child-care subsidies can be used by the children of same-sex domestic partners.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department is expected to announce that federal officials have rethought the Family and Medical Leave Act, concluding that under the law, a gay federal employee may take leave to care for a child with a gay partner.

Individually, none of the changes is especially dramatic. But taken together, they significantly alter the way gays and lesbians are viewed under federal law.

The administration’s effort, made largely under the radar — and outside the reach of Congress — has alarmed opponents of gay rights, who accuse the president of undermining traditional marriage even as he speaks about respecting it.

“He’s been a supporter of married mothers and fathers in name only,” said Jenny Tyree, a marriage analyst for CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family. “He speaks very passionately and touchingly about how he grew up without a father. And yet there is this huge disconnect in how he’s undermining that same opportunity for other children.”

In a Father’s Day statement Sunday, Obama called fathers “our first teachers and coaches, mentors and role models” and said that “nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a stepfather, a grandfather, or caring guardian.”

Tyree called the inclusion of “two fathers” in the proclamation a “very troubling” decision to promote a “motherless family.”

But gay rights advocates have greeted the changes as evidence that Obama has not abandoned them — even as he has frustrated some by failing to act quickly on campaign promises to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act and bring an end to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“The administration is moving the executive branch to really provide interpretations that will change the lives of millions of [lesbian and gay] people for the better,” said Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign.

Winnie Stachelberg, a senior vice president at the Center for American Progress, praised Obama for finding creative ways to unravel policies that she said have long been unfair to gays.

GPS Message: “Read Ayn Rand”

For a group who claim to be individualists, many Ayn Rand supporters have turned into an incredibly supportive cult. One devoted fan used GPS to place the above message on Google Earth. Gizmodo reports:

One man drove 12,238 miles and across 30 states in the U.S. to scrawl a message that could only be viewed using Google Earth. His big shoutout: “Read Ayn Rand.”

Nick Newcomen did a road trip over 30 days that covered stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. First, he identified on a map the route he would need to drive to spell out the message. He put a GPS device in his car to trace the route he would follow. Then, he hit the road.

“The main reason I did it is because I am an Ayn Rand fan,” he says. “In my opinion if more people would read her books and take her ideas seriously, the country and world would be a better place – freer, more prosperous and we would have a more optimistic view of the future.”

Newcomen, unlike previous GPS artists, actually traveled the lines he traced on the map. He used a GPS logger (Qstarz BT-Q1000X) to “ink” the message. Starting his trip in Marshall, Texas, he turned on the device when he wanted to write a letter and turned off the device between letters. The recorded GPS data was loaded into Google Earth to produce the image above.

“The first word I wrote actually was the word ‘Rand’, then I went up North to do the word ‘Read’ and finished it with ‘Ayn,’” says Newcomen.

He better hope that there aren’t any Canadians who respond by doing the same with “Don’t.”