2 things, that is. Two things that Bush has to be proud of, in his 8-year-long presidency. On December 23, the same day that I was getting my bones cut and screwed together in innovative ways, Bush was signing into a law a bill that actually helps same-sex couples (gasp!). From the Human Rights Campaign (via Appetite For Equal Rights):
WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign today hailed the passage of a law that protects partners who inherit retirement savings. The Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (WRERA), signed by President Bush today, contains technical corrections to the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA). PPA made it possible for employers to allow any nonspouse beneficiary of an employee’s retirement plan—including an employee’s same-sex partner—to roll inherited retirement benefits directly to an individual retirement account (IRA) and avoid immediate taxation. WRERA requires that all employers provide this rollover opportunity to nonspouse beneficiaries.
“This legislation secures much-needed protection for lesbian and gay couples,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Our community faces unique challenges in preparing for retirement because we are denied Social Security spousal and survivor benefits. Protecting our hard-earned retirement savings is even more crucial to us, and until now, the tax code made it that much harder.”
It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a start, particularly in these troubled economic times. Gay Rights Watch put it well, in my opinion: “This is pretty huge, sadly it remedies one of the over 1200 rights, privileges and responsibilities that come with marriage rights at the federal level.” Those rights he mentioned are the 1,138 1,137 statutory provisions in which marital status is a factor in determining benefits, rights, and privileges on the federal level; the ones that even same-sex couples who are lucky enough to live in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and can thus get legally married, are denied because of the Defense of Marriage Act. So Bushie actually did something nice! Yay! Give the man a cookie. Of course, like many things, in the great scheme of things, this should not be newsworthy; it actually helps opposite-sex as well as same-sex couples, and is only fair. But here we are.
I said this was the second good thing Bush had done. That’s really giving him the benefit of the doubt; I was referring to PEPFAR, the AIDS initiative that Wikipedia calls “the largest health initiative ever initiated by one country to address a disease”. As the Huffington Post pointed out recently, PEPFAR is perhaps Bush’s only hope for a meaningful legacy. Unfortunately, everything isn’t as wonderful as as a cursory examination of the facts would indicate. $15 billion allotment? Great! 33% of prevention funds forced to be spent on the wingnut’s wet dream, abstinence education? Not so great, especially considering the latest study released (via: almost every blog I read). It found, once again, that not only do abstinence education or virginity pledges not decrease premarital sex, they increase risky behaviors, such as unprotected sexual contact. So…great! By enforcing abstinence education on HIV-infected populations, you’re not only subjecting them to a dizzying array of gender stereotypes, misinformation, and religious propaganda, but you’re making a concerted effort to allow the spread of HIV.
So, it might be more accurate to say that Bush has done 1.5 good things during his terms. But I’m feeling magnanimous. ‘Tis the season, and all that. Huzzah, Dubya!