LGBT rights supporters will be listening intently as President Obama delivers the State of the Union address Wednesday night for some faint sign of the fierce advocate we were promised when raising money, knocking on doors and voting in droves for him.
At the very least, the president must reference the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and address just how he plans to deliver on his oft-repeated campaign pledge to repeal it.
Of all the LGBT-related initiatives, repealing this unjust law is perhaps the least controversial. Several recent polls have put American public support for repeal at 75 percent or higher; a House bill sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) has attracted nearly 200 co-sponsors.
So, will Obama include repeal as part of his 2011 Defense spending request, as many have speculated? Or will he use his bully pulpit, clout and remaining political capital to demand a legislative repeal and publicly endorse Murphy’s bill? Either way, Obama must send a message about his intent this week or risk further inflaming the restive Democratic Party base already upset at his inertia on this and other issues.
Even with the loss of one Massachusetts Senate seat last week, the Democrats still command powerful majorities in both chambers of Congress. Scott Brown’s victory is no excuse for delaying the LGBT legislative agenda.
LGBT voters supported Obama’s campaign in overwhelming numbers because he promised to deliver change after eight long years of Bush-Cheney-Rove attacks. It’s time to deliver that change and the State of the Union address represents the most high-profile way to announce his intentions. Bush used the same address to advocate for a federal marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Obama ought to use the State of the Union to push for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”