Richard Socarides, the gay adviser in the Bill Clinton White House, came in for more criticism this week over his self-appointed role as the top critic of President Obama's efforts on gay matters.
First up, longtime NYC-based journalist Duncan Osborn of Gay City News has started a blog titled HerdandScene. He's continuing his examination of the public record when Socarides worked for Clinton, as anti-gay policies were enacted. Osborn writes:
With appearances on cable TV, quotes in the mainstream press, and a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Socarides is a leading critic of the Obama administration who whips the current White House for failing to undo the policies that Socarides’ former boss put in place.
This nonsensical posture does not end there. Just as Socarides drafted 1996 talking points that defended Clinton’s support for the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 legislation that barred the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages and allowed state governments to do the same, he aided Clinton in responding to a 1997 announcement from the Democratic National Committee that it would begin providing health benefits to the domestic partners of its employees.
In a May 14, 1997 memo titled, “Talking Points: DNC/Domestic Partner (Health Care) Benefits for Same Sex Partners,” Socarides wrote that businesses and non-profit organizations had the option of providing such benefits. What the DNC did was its business.
“Decisions relating to employee benefits are made by the Chairman and senior DNC management,” Socarides wrote. “The White House was made aware of the policy change at a staff level.” [...]
Doesn't sound like he was the least bit enthusiastic over the DNC advances for gay employees, nor did he advocate for the White House to herald the advances. So much for fierce advocacy from Socarides in the 1990s. More reporting from Osborn:
And the president’s position on such benefits?
“The President is aware that many communities and institutions are considering whether basic benefits can be provided outside the context of traditional marriage,” Socarides wrote. “The challenge in addressing these issues is to remain sensitive to the values of our communities while preserving the fundamental right to live free from unjustified discrimination.” [...]
Remain sensitive to the values of communities that oppose gay rights, is part of what I read into that Socarides memo.
And back in Washington, gay lobbyist Robert Raben, who's long enjoyed serving as a handsomely compensated rep for the Human Rights Campaign, and who has deep relationships with many in the Obama administration, has some harsh words for Socarides.
Over at the Daily Beast, writer Linda Hirshman spills lots of beans about the war of words between Raben and Socarides:
"Richard has fashioned himself as a professional scold and I've stopped listening to him," Raben says. "He loves to see his name in print criticizing an administration that has been overwhelmingly pro-gay."
Socarides surely wouldn't accept the characterization of himself as a media-hungry scold, but he says he "completely understands that people would say or think 'who does this guy think he is complaining about this when he was there when it happened.'
"But now," he explains, "15 years later our expectations are different and justifiably so. Our expectations as a community and my personal expectations have changed. My politics have changed, too. I think I've become radicalized, less willing to accept anything less than full equality." [...]
Actually, my expectations were the same about a lot of gay and HIV/AIDS issues back when Socarides was dispensing the gay advice to Clinton: nothing less than full federal equality and legislated protections.
I'm pleased that Socarides claims he been radicalized on full equality from national politicians, it's just too freaking lousy he lacked the spine to have such a position 15 long years ago.