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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

LGBT Issues on the Periphery in Budget, at Obama News Conference

With a focus on the White House budget unveiled on Feb. 14 and the protests for freedom in Egypt and across the Middle East, President Barack Obama held a news conference in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building today. Spending an hour answering questions, Obama was asked no questions about any LGBT-specific issues.
He did, however, reference LGBT-specific issues once, pointing to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal as an example of something that his administration accomplished despite calls for quicker action from outside the White House.
In response to a question from NBC's Chuck Todd in which Todd said that the findings of the fiscal commission have been "shelved," Obama said, "I've had this conversation for that last two years about every single issue that we worked on, whether it was health care or 'don't ask, don't tell.' On Egypt, right? We've had this monumental change over the last three weeks -- well, why did it take three weeks?
"So I think that there's a tendency for us to assume that if it didn't happen today it's not going to happen."
The inclusion of DADT repeal in Obama's list rankled one of Obama's harshest LGBT critics on the left, AmericaBlog's John Aravosis, who wrote, "Repeal didn't take a long time because that was part of the plan. The legislation passed because we got lucky."
Earlier in the morning, White House domestic policy advisor Melody Barnes, the director of the Domestic Policy Council, held a conference call with members of the LGBT media, focusing on budgetary issues impacting LGBT people and HIV/AIDS concerns.
Among other issues, Barnes noted a request in the White House budget proposal for a five percent increase in the budget of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Meanwhile, the director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, Jeffrey Crowley, also was on the call and pointed to, among other priorities reflected in the budget, an $80 million increase for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).
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As I did following an earlier presidential news conference, here's the question I would have asked if I had been selected to ask a question:
Despite the fact that you focused on jobs in your State of the Union and talked about how the budget request would create jobs, you have made no mention of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which is unlikely to pass in the 112th Congress. Without ENDA, what is the administration going to do in the next two years to make jobs more secure for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans?
Despite not getting the chance to ask the question directly, I am seeking a response from the White House.


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