Even though Barack Obama captured 70% of the gay vote in 2008, he ran behind the share John Kerry won in 2004. At least according to CNN exit polls, 77% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans preferred the 2004 Democratic nominee to George W. Bush (who had that year signaled his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment).
Still, 70% of the gay vote is nothing to sneeze at. With promises to repeal Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) while including gays in federal hate crimes protections and enacting the Employment Non-Discrimination ACT (ENDA), Obama rode a wave of hope that, once elected, he would sign legislation designed to bring positive change for gay Americans.
Yet once in office, he failed to deliver, save on signing a more comprehensive hate crimes bill which includes sexual orientation among the groups previously covered.
On the other matters, save DADT repeal, Congress hasn’t even scheduled a vote. And while the House voted last May to repeal the Clinton-era law barring gays from serving openly in the military, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid failed to follow suit right away. When he finally got around to scheduling a vote in September (as fall campaigns were well underway), he did so in such a ham-handed manner that he put a Republican supporter of repeal in the “awkward position of voting against moving forward on legislation that I supported and that contained a change in policy I advocated.”
Writing the above quote in the Washington Post, DADT opponent Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) faulted the Nevada Democrat for using “procedural tactics” to “prevent Republican amendments.” She wasn’t alone. Her Massachusetts colleague Scott Brown also decried Reid’s tactics. Jarrod Chlapowski, field director for Servicemembers United, a group opposed to DADT, derided Reid’s legislative tactics as “cynical” and called them “a recipe for failure.”
With the Senate Democratic leadership failing to develop a workable strategy for repeal of an unpopular law (according to Gallup, 70% of Americans, including 53% of conservatives, “favor allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military”), and with the Democratic leadership of both houses failing to act on other initiatives important to gay activists, it’s no wonder the Associated Press finds “gay voters are angry — at the lack of progress on issues from eliminating employment discrimination to uncertainty over serving in the military to the economy — [with] some … choosing to sit out this election or look for other candidates.”