With Obama in power, WhiteHouse.gov now backs abortion rights, 'gay rights'

WASHINGTON (BP)--White House policies changed dramatically Tuesday, not the least of which was the WhiteHouse.gov website, which in less than five minutes went from one promoting pro-life policies and traditional marriage to one opposing such policies.

President Obama campaigned as a social liberal, and -- if his website is any indication -- he intends to deliver on several controversial issues, from supporting same-sex civil unions and the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to overturning the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy to being a staunch supporter of abortion rights.

Five minutes before noon -- before Obama had taken the oath of office -- the website still had a link to then-President Bush's statement backing a ban on partial-birth abortion and supporting a "culture of life" and his proclamations underscoring the need for "speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us." As late as last weekend, Bush -- who some have called the most pro-life president since abortion was legalized nationwide -- had issued a proclamation naming Jan. 18 "National Sanctity of Human Life Day," which was the Sunday before the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (Jan. 22).

But several minutes after noon, the switch was flipped, and Bush's policies were gone, replaced by those of Obama's. The new website has a statement affirming that Obama supports Roe.

"President Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women's rights under Roe v. Wade a priority in his Administration. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case," the statement, found under the category "Women" on the "Agenda" pulldown menu, states.

The new website also has a lengthy section dedicated to "Support for the LGBT Community" (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), although it's somewhat hidden, listed under the "civil rights" section of the "Agenda" pulldown menu. Bush's WhiteHouse.gov website had no section for homosexual issues.

Among the changes for the homosexual community, Obama's White House website pledges that the new president will support repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law signed by President Clinton in 1996 that gives states the option of not recognizing another state's "gay marriages." It also prevents the federal government from recognizing "gay marriage." Supporters of DOMA say its repeal would be the first step toward legalizing "gay marriage" nationwide. Bush supported DOMA and a federal marriage amendment, which Obama opposes.

The new website also includes a quote from Obama addressed to the homosexual community: "While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."

Following is the text from Obama's website regarding what his administration's goals are on homosexual issues:

-- "Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.

-- "Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

-- "Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

-- "Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.

-- "Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.

-- "Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.

-- "Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.

-- "Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections."


Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press

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