Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Obama Summits: 
Indian Tribes 2, Gays 0

Back in September 2009 I blogged about how Indian tribal leaders invited to a White House sponsored sit-down meeting on policy and programmatic issues at the Old Executive Office Building, while the gays were given a tour of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Two months after that meeting, President Obama and his administration held an all-day Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of the Interior, to discuss the unmet needs of Indians. According to the transcript of his remarks, the Indians were about to receive better communications with federal agencies, potentially leading to improving Indian lives:

In the final years of his administration, President Clinton issued an executive order establishing regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration between your nations and the federal government. But over the past nine years, only a few agencies have made an effort to implement that executive order -- and it's time for that to change. (Applause.)

The memorandum I'll sign directs every Cabinet agency to give me a detailed plan within 90 days of how -- the full implementation of that executive order and how we're going to improve tribal consultation. (Applause.) [...]

A story in Indian Country Today this week reports on what became of those plans, some of it good or other areas in need of improvement:

[National Conference of American Indians] officials noted that since Obama’s first conference in November 2009, the federal government has increased the number and scope of tribal consultations [...]

Obama and agency officials made several promises to tribes during the first event, among them that the president would require federal agencies to submit plans for consultation with tribes in 90 days. Some agencies did not follow through on the president’s request, and the White House has not offered further comment on that fact. [...]

But tribal leaders will soon get their second summit with the administration, according to the same story:

Before 2010 comes to a close, President Barack Obama will again meet face-to-face with Indian nation leaders in the nation’s capital.

The White House announced Nov. 15 that Obama plans to hold a second White House Tribal Nations Conference on Thursday, Dec. 16. [...]

I'm impressed the Indians are getting their White House summits and some federal agencies are increasing their consultations with tribal leaders, and seeing these developments gives me reason to wonder if there are lesson here for the gay community.

On one hand, it might be beneficial for the gays if our professional leaders were demanding similar summits and mandated consultations with top officials at federal agencies. But on the other hand, if the Obama administration were to copy their model of engagement for the Indian and apply to the gays, guess who would be the lead group for the summit?

None other than the Human Rights Campaign, and they would be greatly assisted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, GLAAD, Stonewall Democrats and more of the usual suspects from Gay Inc. Frankly, I don't imagine those orgs would all of sudden develop politically independent backbones and deliver much more to the ordinary gays than flowery press releases and pretty photo-ops.

And even though the Indians don't appear to be getting all that much due to Obama signing the memorandum last year requiring more consultations, and one summit with another soon to happen, it is a lot more transparent public engagement with an important constituency. Comparing the Indian summits with the White House cocktail receptions and small, private meetings with Gay Inc leaders, I say one voting and donor bloc is getting slightly better treatment from the White House.

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