A committed gay rights journalist thoroughly tracks the president’s hard-won “evolution” in embracing the national LBGT agenda.
Daily Kos columnist Eleveld, who covered President Barack Obama for four years at the Advocate, pursues the reluctant endorsement of the then-senator by the gay community in 2008—they were disappointed by Obama’s definition of marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman—through the triumphant June 2015 decision by the Supreme Court to allow the right of same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states. Obama inherited President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military, although it had proven disastrously controversial. The passage of Proposition 8 in California in November 2008 prohibiting same-sex marriage seemed to underscore for Obama and the entire Democratic leadership that LGBT equality was too hot an issue to take on electorally. Eleveld shows how Obama danced around the issue for years: first in choosing and then replacing the champion of Proposition 8 to give the invocation at his inauguration, then in a tortured repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, first enacted in 1996 and finally gutted in 2013. Eleveld’s chronological story involves the relentless push by activists demanding that the president do the right thing—i.e., to secure full legal rights for gay spouses and to advance LGBT legislation. The successes of AIDS activists in the 1980s served as inspiration for the new direct-action groups, namely ACT UP and GetEQUAL, while momentum was building from the successful film Milk, as well as a well-publicized National Equality March on Washington in October 2009. Capitol Hill hearings with the Pentagon on DADT underscored the policy’s inefficacy, forcing a vote in Congress for repeal in 2010, a huge victory for the gay rights community after “seventeen years of sustained activism.” Throughout the book, the author explores the president’s principles versus political expediency.
An accomplished chronicle of the setbacks and successes by a journalist in the trenches.