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Should LGBTs Realistically Expect Anything from Obama’s State of the Union?

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Tuesday Jan 24, 2012

It's once again the economy, stupid!

This slight variation of James Carville's famous quip will certainly hold true for President Barack Obama when he delivers his third State of the Union speech later today. The address will build upon themes that the president outlined in his Osawatomie, Kan., speech in December-creating the foundation of a country that will be built to last. In other words; jobs, jobs, jobs!

Along with that theme, the president will discuss basic values that include fairness for all Americans. LGBT people in 29 states lack basic employment protections, while 35 states do not include gender identity and expression in their employment non-discrimination laws. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 34 percent of transgender people of color live below the poverty line with an annual income of less than $10,000, but the prospects for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act remain grim.

Senior administration officials declined to say whether the president would specifically address ENDA, marriage for same-sex couples or any other-LGBT specific issue in tonight's State of the Union. Lorelei Kilker of Brighton, Colo., who is among the women who filed a complaint against the Western Sugar Cooperative with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for alleged sex-based discrimination, and her partner, Sara Nelson, are among those who will sit with First Lady Michelle Obama during the address. Air Force Col. Ginger Wallace of McLean, Va., will also be in attendance.

The repeal of the Pentagon's ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers and the administration's decision to no longer defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act have both taken place since Obama delivered his last State of the Union. For better or for worse, LGBT voters remain an important Democratic base upon which the president hopes to rely for continued support in November. Should they expect the president to come out for marriage for same-sex couples or call for an executive order that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression?

The question itself is arguably naïve one to even ask, but hope does spring eternal.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


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