21 May 2012

Sorry Barack, Not Too Bad So Far But Still Not Far Enough On Gay Rights

Before I start in on criticizing him, I want to assure you, my readers, that I do intend to vote for the re-election of Barack Obama. While in some ways he has been something of a disappointment as president, I do think he has largely done a pretty good job against nearly overwhelming odds. He has managed to accomplish, or at least begin to accomplish, some good things that have already begun to - and if the Supreme Court and the Republicans don't get in the way - will do even more good for a lot of people in the years to come.

His healthcare bill is badly cobbled together, it is far too incomplete, and may well even make things worse for people like me who have to buy their own insurance. But it's a start. And like most sweeping legislation throughout the history of this country, it is likely to be improved upon over time. (Allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines would be a good start to making things better.)

While the country's economic recovery is slow, at least we're recovering. Obama continued and expanded upon many of the things that the Bush administration initiated. (I love it when Republicans criticize him for continuing what Bush started.) That has certainly helped prevent the bust and recession from turning into a massive economic depression. He courageously did some of what he did in the way of economic stimulus in the face of opposition from the left wing of his own party. And that stimulus, with all its attendant problems, is likely what has kept our economy as afloat as it is.

Sadly, in the course of all that stimuli, any meaningful reform to oversight and regulation of the financial industry in this country got trampled underfoot. We might be recovering, but in another ten to 15 to 20 years it's all going to happen all over again.

You get the picture. I could go on at great length about things I've liked and not liked about his presidency. I think he's done okay. I'll give him, I don't know, a solid B-minus / C-plus so far. In reality I think that's pretty good under the circumstances. He isn't a dictator, we live in a democracy. When a mature democracy works to improve things it tends to do it incrementally rather than in big leaps and bounds. And that's probably a good thing. Incremental change is much more likely to be sustainable over the long haul.

But Barack, what the hell is this nonsense of yours about gay marriage being an issue for the states? Sure, I'm glad you finally came out and said that you support the right of gay people to marry. But then you went and undermined it with this bullshit about it being a state issue.

Yeah, sure, just like civil rights for African-Americans should have been a state issue.

We are talking about a fundamental human right here, not speed limits. A gay couple who are married in, say, Iowa, still can't:

File a joint federal income tax return.

Give each other gifts without being regulated by the federal tax code's limitations on gift giving that is exempt from taxation as income.

Simply assume possession of what should be their joint estate upon the death of one of the spouses, without being subject to federal estate taxes.

Have their marriage and all the attached rights and responsibilities of marriage recognized if they move from one state to another. If they were filing joint state taxes in, say, Massachusetts, then they move to New Jersey, they have to go back to filing separate state taxes. The same is true for a whole wide range of matters, from hospital visitation rights to the status of adopted children, etc..

When they return from trips overseas and file customs forms, the duty free exemption for what they purchased while out of the country is still counted per individual rather than as a household.

There are undoubtedly a whole lot of other problems with treating marriage as an issue for the states as well, but those are the ones that immediately spring to mind. So Barack, just as you wouldn't want to have to use the "Colored" restroom when you are in Mississippi rather than in New York because it should be left up to the states how they want to deal with fundamental human rights issues, gay people and marriage deserve the same treatment.