May 6, 2010 | by Kevin Naff
Will we remember in November?

Forget about the back of the bus — that whooshing sound you hear is the sound of the administration tossing us under the bus. Again.

Make no mistake that the events of last Friday, in which Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chair Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) demanding a halt to congressional action on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” amounts to a cowardly and transparent effort to give cover to moderate Democrats in the November elections.

Those midterms are looking ominous for Democrats and so, per usual, LGBT initiatives are the first sacrificial lamb. Not only does this all but ensure “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” won’t be repealed this year, some experts predict it’s now off the table until 2013 — after the 2012 presidential elections, when the Democrats will be back with their hands outstretched for more mighty gay dollars while offering more empty promises and excuses in return.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told Servicemembers United that the odds of repealing the military’s gay ban this year stand at about 30-40 percent. Someone should tell him that nearly 80 percent of American voters support repeal now, according to several recent polls. Meanwhile, the Palm Center, another of the expert groups working for repeal, says LGBT service members may now have to wait until 2013 for relief from the injustice of this cruel and stupid law.

Gates’ letter warned that legislative repeal prior to the completion of the Pentagon working group study (scheduled for Dec. 1) “would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter.” That statement raises the obvious question: When was the last time rank-and-file service members were polled about an impending policy change?

Shortly after Gates’ letter leaked, the White House responded: “The President’s commitment to repealing don’t ask, don’t tell is unequivocal. This is not a question of if, but how. That’s why we’ve said that the implementation of any congressional repeal will be delayed until the DOD study of how best to implement that repeal is completed. The President is committed to getting this done both soon and right.”

What’s left unclear by the White House statement is whether Obama supports a vote in Congress now that delays implementation until 2011.When asked by the Blade to clarify the statement Saturday at Philadelphia’s Equality Forum, Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, said, “I think that’s an ongoing discussion right now. … at the end of the day, it is Congress that will repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ not us.”

The refusal to endorse a vote for repeal is a striking departure from what we’ve been told since the 2008 campaign. The Blade has reported for weeks that the House has the votes to pass repeal legislation, thanks in large part to the fierce advocacy not of President Obama, but of Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the Blade just last week that she wants a vote on repeal this year. She’s not known for scheduling votes on bills that won’t pass, so it’s a safe assumption that repeal would pass the House.

The situation in the Senate is less clear. Supporters of repeal say they are within a few votes on the Senate Armed Services Committee of securing approval. The full Senate would likely support repeal, though it’s doubtful the Democrats have 60 votes to block an expected filibuster. Of course, what’s needed to put repeal over the top is hands-on lobbying from Obama. Instead of pressing the handful of fence-sitting Democrats, Obama is telling them not to act this year, a recipe for a much longer repeal delay when Republicans close the gap or even retake the House in November.

Gates — a George W. Bush appointee — reports to the commander in chief and he didn’t draft that letter without Obama’s knowledge and support. If the Democrats think they have problems now, let’s see what happens to their fortunes after they alienate a key part of their base.

If my e-mail inbox is any indication, LGBT Americans have finally arrived at the breaking point, outraged at the endless broken promises and delayed advances. Treating our full equality as an expendable bargaining chip is no longer acceptable. When will the Democrats stop running from their own shadow, ever fearful of what Fox News or Sarah Palin or the Tea Baggers might say about them? Fox News can’t attract two million viewers on a good night. We’re a nation of more than 300 million people, the vast majority of whom oppose “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” including many prominent Republicans. Supporting repeal of this odious law that compromises our national security and wastes billions of taxpayer dollars will not cost any Democrat his or her seat.

LGBT lobbyists, activists and everyday supporters of equality must now redouble their efforts. Call your members of Congress and the White House demanding an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year. If Obama is unwilling to include repeal in his Defense authorization bill, then Congress must press forward and vote now, before the Republicans have a chance to win back the House in November.

The Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and all other LGBT groups that are engaged in lobbying the administration and the Hill must make it clear that failure to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year will amount to a betrayal of the LGBT community and that there will be consequences. As Sunday’s White House protesters chanted, we must “remember in November.”

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

16 Comments
  • Kevin,
    What a brilliant article. Thank you for writing it, and keeping our attention focused where it should be. Your post actually inspired mine, so I thought I’d send you the link-love.
    http://bit.ly/aJjUNf
    (http://www.outfrontcolorado.com/blog/?p=5598)
    Again, thank you.

    Sunnivie Brydum
    Web Editor
    Out Front Colorado

  • Its a terrible thing to admit, but it does seem as though Obama and the Democrats are betraying us again. They won’t bring the Domestic Partner Benefits & Obligations Act up for a vote, they won’t call for a committee vote on ENDA, they won’t give the Uniting American Families Act a vote in committee, they won’t even discuss repealing DOMA, and now they are blowing off the Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Why then should we continue to support them? Mind you, I certainly wouldn’t support the Republicans, but I have stopped voluntering for the Democrats and they will not be receiving any money from me until they change their ways. I am waiting to see if they pass any pro-lgbt legislation this year, and if they don’t, I will stay home this November, (for the first time in 24 years) and watch the Dems go down in flames, with no one but themselves to blame for their cowardice and betrayal.

  • So, come November, who will we vote for– Democrat or Republican? We have no choice, and everyone knows it.

    • Wrong. We can sit it out. The consequences have proven themselves to really not be all that much worse than what we get by bankrolling and voting for a party that actually doesn’t deliver on any of its important promises.

    • So 2dogs what you are saying is no matter what the democrats do you will vote for them. When civil rights becomes a matter of popular vote unless it involves skin color it seems to me the answer is clear, no money no votes and no rest until we have equality.

      Here in Florida I can choose to vote for Charlie Crist for the Senate and hope that he doesn’t stab me in the back any worse than the Democrat party has with Joe S. as a cheerleader.

      Check for choices but be honest is voting for someone that hates you a little less maybe anymore helpful?

  • I LOVE the new Blade. Great article, thank you for reminding us the situation on the ground here in DC.

  • Has the thought occurred to any of you that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is being delayed because we still have over 100,000 troops in Iraq and nearly 45,000 troops in Afghanistan?

    Has the thought occurred to you that DADT repeal is being delayed because those 145,000 troops — fighting theofascist Muslim extremists whose utterly paranoid hatred of LGBT people rivals the Nazis’ hatred of Jews — would be put in far greater danger than they already are if DADT is repealed now?

    Has the thought occurred to you that if DADT was repealed now, any U.S. soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan who is captured by Muslim extremists would be subjected to homophobic abuse — and possibly be executed — by his or her captors, regardless if that soldier is LGBT or not?

    • No, your rationalization for bigotry hasn’t occurred to the rest of us. Homophobic abuse, please. So far we are the only ones that have engaged in homophobic abuse of war prisoners.

      If only the Pentagon had put as much “research” into going to Iraq and Afghanistan as they are putting into DADT.

    • SkeeterVT; Your argument that we should not pursue equal rights because muslim extremists won’t like it is embarrassing. the other nations that currently have troops in the middle east already allow gays to serve, England and Israel for instances, and that has never been the issue. American troops may be a target by terrorists, but not becuase of the DADT debate. I suppose we should kick all women out of the military because muslim extremists might not like that either, and we should always follow what they say, right?

  • Kevin, you rock! As always, your editorials are incisive and on target. Just a recommendation but, why not have a direct link from the homepage to your weekly editorials. In the old format, it was one of the first things I read. You are such a credit to national gay media. Thank you!

    Now regarding the issue at hand, this delay is without question Obama’s decision. He is Commander-in-Chief; Gates reports to him. As Tim stated so well in his post above, there are so many issues of importance to our community that we were promised during the campaign that have yet to be addressed. The best opportunity to move forward on our agenda is the 2009-2010 cycle where we have a democratic President and control of Congress. There seems to be consensus that things are not going to be better with the fall elections.

    When are we going to wake up and stop being the doormat for the democrats and the whipping boy for the republicans? Where in the Constitution is there an op-out clause for our community? Our best hope is clearly with the democratic party (BTW, kudos to Rep. Murphy), but for me, this ATM is now closed. My partner and I are having very serious conversations about moving out of the U.S.

    • “The best opportunity to move forward on our agenda is the 2009-2010 cycle where we have a democratic President and control of Congress. There seems to be consensus that things are not going to be better with the fall elections.”

      That’s pretty much over and done with. But I guess we still have Joe Solmonese’s 2017 to look forward to. I hope he enjoys his paycheck.

  • I would rather hold my head up high and deal with four or eight years of Republican Hell than give another Dollar or another vote to a Democratic candidate for any office in November OR in 2012 if they Fu@k us again.

  • SkeeterVT, as someone much more knowledgeable about the subject than me once said, “War is Hell.”

  • I am sure that Blacks would have liked Lincoln to free them during his first year in office, women would have liked Wilson to use his bully pulpit to endorse women’s suffrage during his first year in office, labor would have liked FDR to support labor during his first year in office and antiwar activists would have liked JFK to withdraw the troops from Viet Nam during his first year in office. Did Lincoln’s failure to do so mean that he was throwing Blacks under the proverbial bus, that Wilson was throwing women under the bus, that FDR was throwing labor under the bus or JFK was throwing antiwar activists under the bus?

    LGBT are fond of making a questionable and ahistorical comparisons to the experience of Blacks in America. Same sex marriage is one example; repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is another.

    While there may be those who participated in both the civil rights as well as Gay rights movements who think the analogy a good one, I do not know of any such persons. I know that there cannot be too many.

    That does not mean that LGBT do not deserve the same equal rights as much as any other group, it just means that comparisons are odious and that includes this one.

    As a veteran of the civil rights and gay rights movements among others and given the general ignorance of LGBT when it comes to history in general, the law in particular and social justice movements in specific, I thought that a brief history lesson might be in order.

    The truth is that President Truman was ambivalent about integration of the Army and politics played more of a role than morality in his ultimate decision to do so.

    While politics has no doubt played a role in President Obama’s handling of the DADT issue, I think it is fair to say that he is more morally committed to repealing DADT than Truman was to desgregating the military.

    Much like Obama with respect to DADT, Truman appointed a commission regarding desegregation. That commission recommended quick implementation for integration which Truman rejected and adopted instead a “go slow” approach which I am not defending.

    Much like Obama allowing the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to undertake a year long study on how to implement the repeal of DADT, Truman allowed the military to work out the details and timetable for desegregation.

    For the most part, Truman and his Secretary of War (Defense) Stuart Symington, yielded to the military.
    It took 8 years to desegregate the military during the course of which segregated branches of the military and segregated units within the branches remained in place.

    I have always advised against LGBT “putting all their eggs (or sperm) in one political (or sexual) basket.” However, LGBT would be wise to recognize that we do not have the political power of Blacks, the voting number of Hispanics or the economic influence of the Jews.

    Our sitting out the election will almost certainly not determine its outcome. But it will affect our future.
    Whether one chooses to endorse Democrats or Republicans,
    failure to support either will leave us in an even more vulnerable position politically than we are already.

    And that’s okay, so long as we understand the reality.

  • Thing is, we’re not just seeing a leadership vacuum on DADT, but also on ENDA. ENDA would help way more Americans than DADT but it’s languishing in the press, in the leading LGBT organizations, and in Congress.

    I wonder how Joe Solomese feels about reassuring us that by 2017 all will be golden for our people. That was before the mishandled health care debate, the needless insistence on bipartisanship, and the summer of discontent.

    And now we will have to go back and wait for the Republicans to have 16 years in power, to see if they’ll screw up enough to give us a chance. Another opportunity squandered, another set of promises unmet.

    For those who still have faith in Barack O, ask youself if he really is a ‘fierce advocate for gays and lesbians.’ His words. Not mine.

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