Hildebrand to Obama: Don't Defend DOMA
BY Kerry Eleveld
July 22 2010 10:15 AM ET
When Steve Hildebrand was given just three words to introduce himself at an LGBT event Wednesday at Netroots Nation in Las Vegas, he said simply, “Don’t hate Obama.” All attendees were allotted the same number of words, but Hildebrand, who served as the deputy campaign manager for Obama in 2008, stood out because he's had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the administration he helped elect ever since it entered the White House.
In an interview following the event, Hildebrand told The Advocate that he still thinks his former boss’s heart is in the right place on LGBT issues but that he is at turns frustrated with the Administration and fundamentally believes the Justice Department should not defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, especially after a federal district court judge in Boston found portions of it to be unconstitutional in no uncertain terms.
“I’d like to see the president and Attorney General Holder announce that they will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act and to agree with the judge’s findings in the Massachusetts court case,” Hildebrand said.
Why did you choose your three words?
I brought it up because over the course of the past 1.5 years the progressive blogging community — not completely unfounded — has been incredibly critical of President Obama and oftentimes using pretty outrageous language almost to the point that it’s coming across as very mean-spirited and angry.
My three words were simple — "Don’t hate Obama" — and if I would have had a chance to elaborate, I would have said, ‘This is a guy who isn’t going to do things exactly the way you want him to do, but know that his heart is in the right place. He has his priorities, they’re in line with our priorities and he’s going to do them at his pace.
That at the end of this four-year period, and ideally an additional four years, I don’t think the gay community will be disappointed with the progress that we made under this president.
I think it’s very important that we keep pressure on the president, the White House, and the Administration, and on elected officials across the spectrum but to understand that President Obama is an incredibly important and good friend to the gay community in this country. He’s not our enemy, we shouldn’t treat him as if he were; we should keep our on eyes on who our real enemies are.
Many activists argue that given the huge Democratic majorities in Congress and the potential that’s slipping away, we should keep a close eye on our friends at the moment. Is it a red herring to keep our eye on our enemies?
I think it’s fair to say that we have Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate — but we do not have pro-equality majorities in the Senate, at least we don’t have the 60 votes regularly to get our agenda completed. And in the House we’ve got a pro-equality majority that’s not being utilized.
I believe we can get majority votes in the House and 60 votes in the Senate but our priorities are not high enough to warrant votes and we ought to exert immense pressure on Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and other members of the House and Senate. The protest that GetEqual did yesterday was important. I think it was successful. The pressure was at the right moment and at the right point, but it was also respectful. They simply were saying, “Senator Reid, schedule a vote, let’s get Employment Non-Discrimination passed in the Senate.”
Those kinds of activities are good and what our community should be doing to exert pressure. I think we should continue to pressure the White House and this president, I just don’t believe that some of the rhetoric that has been used and the venom that has been expressed toward this president is warranted.
I too would like to see this White House be more aggressive at getting more pro-equality legislation passed while we have this moment. Every day that we don’t get ENDA and “don’t ask, don’t tell” [repeal] passed is a lost opportunity, and I would like to see its priority raised within the strategy at the White House.
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