Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Good News: President Obama's Recent Actions

Hello everyone. Who needs some good news for a winter monday?

Does anyone feel different now that we have a new president? Several people have asked me that, and I wasn't sure what to say. I'm hesitant to get my hopes up too high. Yet, in his short time in office so far, the President has already taken some positive actions.

But first, how predictable was it that our nation's anti-Obamas would immediately begin ridiculing the man for his little swearing-in flub? I personally thought it was endearing to see Obama eagerly repeat "I Bar-" a little too soon, but for others I suppose it's some sort of omen from the heavens above regarding B. Hussein's term.

Anyway, Chief Justice Roberts did commit a little error of his own by misplacing the word "faithfully" while administering the oath. Because of this error, Obama was sworn in a second time perhaps anticipating the bringing forth of more "fun" lawsuits challenging his qualifications for the office of the Presidency.

Frivolity aside, I want to remain upbeat today. I am pleased about the following almost-immediate actions Obama has taken thus far:

1) Closing Guantanamo Bay

President Obama has followed through with one of his campaign promises by issuing an executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay ("GTMO"). US operation of GTMO has been subject to much criticism among legal experts and human rights organizations. General criticisms leveled against GTMO are that treatment of the detainees violates Geneva Conventions, that prisoners have been subjected to abuse and torture (PDF), and that the prison lacks legal accountability. All of these factors, it is often argued, further embolden terrorists and prove to our enemies that America is as bad as they say we are.

GTMO is a public relations-nightmare on multiple levels and an embarrassment to our nation. Bravo Obama, for doing what should have been done a long time ago.

2) End of Global Gag Rule

President Obama also plans to sign an executive order reversing the so-called Global Gag Rule. This rule prevents US funds from going to international family planning groups that offer abortions or even provide information about abortions. Ronald Reagan established the rule in 1984, Bill Clinton reversed it, George W. Bush re-instituted it, and Obama is now set to reverse it.

You can read more about the world health implications of the Global Gag Rule here.

3) Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

I have previously written about Lilly Ledbetter's wage discrimination case here. To refresh your memory, Ledbetter sued her employer when she found out that she had been paid less than similarly-employed male co-workers for many years. Even though Ledbetter had been unaware for 19 years that she was paid less than men for the same work, the US Supreme Court ruled that Ledbetter had to bring her case within 180 days of her wage being set.

Within the past month, both the House and Senate passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (PDF) reversing the Supreme Court's decision. This law treats each paycheck received as a separate discriminatory act that restarts the 180-day statute of limitations. While George W. Bush had threatened to veto the bill, President Obama has indicated that he will sign it into law.

4) Civil Rights

Obama has made his commitment to civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community pretty clear on his internet home. What a refreshing change to be mentioned, let alone supported, on the White House website!

As part of his gay agenda, President Obama expresses support for the expansion of hate crimes laws, a transgender-inclusive employment non-discrimination act, full civil unions and federal benefits for same-sex couples (but not marriage), expansion of adoption rights, and promotion of HIV/AIDS prevention. Meanwhile, he opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and opposes Don't Ask Don't Tell.

While Obama doesn't go as far as many in the LGBT community would like, his overall position is leagues above that of his predecessor.

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