President Obama’s support of queer rights has improved in the past couple of years. Obama has recently focused on efforts to reform the Boy Scouts of America to be more considerate of queer scout masters. Beyond the symbolic gesture, the president had Sen. John Kerry’s Senate Bill 48, which proposes a quicker path for same-sex couples to receive permanent resident status, be considered by the recently formed bipartisan immigration reform commitee. The move should cement Obama’s commitment to not just talking about queer rights, but voting on them too.
Obama has not always been this vocal on the issue. Infamously, Obama only admitted that same-sex couples deserve the right to marry last year, while taking three years to finish a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. For much of his first term, Obama was behind his party in championing queer rights, now he’s ahead.
In making our immigration policy friendlier toward same-sex couples, the United States may not only serve as a pinnacle for queer rights, but also attract people who wish to relocate in the face of discrimination and oppression in their home countries. Currently 11 countries feature nationwide queer-rights marriages, while 78 countries find sex between those of the same sex to still be a crime according to the Economist. Though strong, Obama’s actions only hint at how the administration will treat queer rights these next four years.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” said Obama in his Inaugural Address. “For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
Obama’s moves and Sen. Kerry’s proposed bill have roots in the Uniting American Families Act, a continually tabled piece of legislation first proposed in 2000. The act has been proposed and tabled 6 times.
Up to 40,000 U.S. nationals will be affected by a policy that grants them and their permanent partner a legal path to citizenship, according to the Washington Post. Family repatriation has been a central part of U.S. immigration policy since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 and has since reunited thousands of families starting new lives. Granting same-sex immigrant couples the same rights is the right way to move forward.
Opponents of queer rights have been curiously silent as Obama continues fighting for reform. With recent immigrants becoming an important group in our economy, pushing any marginalized group away can be the difference between building an economy of innovators, and merely a satisfactory one.
Beyond immigration, Obama’s recent gesture to push forward allowing queer individuals to officially join the Boy Scouts shows how much the president has changed in his willingness to tackle injustice.
Obama’s role as the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America allowed him to push forward reform quickly, and get it voted on by the Boy Scouts board of administration, even if that vote was to delay action. Obama’s change of heart and activist role is a welcome addition to his policy.
As the son of a Kenyan immigrant himself, a former community organizer and a member of various church youth groups, Obama knows the toll that these forms of discrimination have on communities. The Boy Scouts have somewhere in the area of 4 million members, according to their official website, while the United States sees millions of immigrants come across its shores each year.
Fighting for reform on behalf of permanent same-sex couples and the Boy Scouts is the type of president we need. These gestures should resonate loudly for all Americans, new and old, queer and straight — no discrimination will be tolerated.