One year ago today, I marveled at President Obama’s good fortune of getting through August without a calamity for the first time in his presidency. The same can’t be said for this August, what with the tangled situation (of his making) in Syria and all. But August 2013, particularly Aug. 29, was a phenomenal month for liberals who worry the president couldn’t care less about the issues they care about.
Guns: On Aug. 29, the Obama administration announced the closure of two loopholes. One would prohibit the reimportation of military-grade weapons that were sold or donated by the United States to foreign allies. The other closed loophole would require fingerprinting background checks for those registering guns to a corporation or a trust. The administration contends this is how guns are purchased by those legally ineligible to buy them. Yes, these are largely symbolic moves by the administration. But they are moves, nonetheless
Marriage equality: Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling the so-called Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in June, federal agencies have been moving quickly to bring equity and fairness to same-sex married couples. On Aug. 29, the Internal Revenue Service announced that legally married same-sex couples would be able to file joint federal tax returns wherever they live. This comes on top of the Aug. 14 announcement by the Defense Department that spousal and family benefits would be available to legally married same-sex couples starting Sept. 3. Also, the Pentagon will grant leave to military personnel to travel to a jurisdiction where they can legally marry their same-sex partner. And on Aug. 9, the Social Security Administration announcement that it is processing some retirement benefit claims of legally married same-sex couples. The one hiccup, as Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed reported, is that said couples must also live in a state where marriage equality is legal.
Pot: On Aug. 29, the Justice Department informed the governors of Colorado and Washington that it would not challenge the ballot initiatives legalizing the adult use of marijuana.
Criminal justice: In an Aug. 12 speech to the American Bar Association, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced a series of criminal justice reforms. Non-violent drug offenders not tied to gangs would no longer be hit with charges requiring mandatory minimum sentences. There will also be alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent felons. And elderly nonviolent prisoners will be eligible for reduced sentences. For African Americans pushing for changes to end the mass incarceration of black men, this was welcomed news.
Sure, you could argue that announcing many of these policy changes on the day before the nation completely tunes out for the Labor Day weekend is the administration’s way of hiding in plain sight. But that doesn’t make the policy changes any less necessary or worthwhile.
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