From the official whitehouse.gov website:
"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."
It's right there.
Except it never says "all." And that's where it can get tricky. The rights spelled out in the last sentence are among the easiest to provide equal access to. Only the most callous of the homophobes believe in denying access to a loved one in the hospital. The other three are just about money, and not that much of it in the larger scheme. Why not highlight federal immigration rights and Social Security survivor benefits?
I realize I should be over the moon about even the language that exists. The past eight years were not good ones for civil rights in general, and for gay people in particular. Society took many steps forward -- as witnessed by the ever-rising approval numbers for marriage equality (and even higher numbers saying yes to equivalent civil unions) -- but our government didn't come along.
So don't get me wrong, I'm grateful. But this is not our first time at the rodeo. We've been screwed in the past. Promised one thing, then told we had to settle for another. It happens. That's politics.
Which is why this bothers me. Because the language seems just vague enough to be politically-expedient if Obama can't get the whole deal done. Maybe Social Security is too broke to handle more survivor benefits, or immigration is too high anyway, and the right guard play enough games that the civil unions bill extends 1134 Federal benefits instead of 1136. (Or whatever the exact number is -- I've never seen it as an exact number that I can recall. It's either 1000+ or 1100+ or 1200+. UPDATE: It's 1138. Interesting that I estimated it so closely!) So it's not quite "all." It's still "1,100+," just as stated in the President's agenda.
This is weasel room that the simple placement of an "all" or two would clear up: "...civil unions that give same-sex couples ALL legal rights and privileges...", would be my first addition. Then: "...enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits..." Change "the" to "all" in that sentence and it's perfect. Two word changes and we're done.
Since Obama seems to act more with savvy than expedience, perhaps it's part of larger plan. Either way, let's get the show on the road.