May 14, 2010 | by Rod McCullom
Letting the troops decide

The Friday evening document dumps from the Obama administration on LGBT issues should be well established by now. The DOMA briefs were released on a Friday. The response to Log Cabin’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” lawsuit? You guessed it, a Friday. And the recent “release” of Defense Secretary Gates’ letter to House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton — at 5 p.m., no less, as the Beltway press corps was focused on the oil spill and the über-important White House Correspondents’ Dinner — fit the profile to a “T.”

For months, it has become painfully apparent that the administration has been trying to stall 2010 “Don’t Ask” repeal. Skelton opposes repeal so even Ray Charles could see this one coming.

Well, actually not everyone. As recently as two weeks ago, the White House Press Office’s go-to gay (aka The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder) reported the “inside story” on repeal and accused the LGBT netroots of believing in a “conspiracy theory” that the White House didn’t want a 2010 repeal. Fast forward to the Gates memo. “All I know is that letter took WH by surprise,” Ambinder tweeted.

Of course it did, because Gates does not work for President Obama and the Department of Defense is the fourth branch of government. Drink up, Marc.

No, the only element that was remotely surprising here was Gates’ touchy-feely rationale warning Congress against moving in any way toward repeal. In case you haven’t heard it’s quite unique. From Gates’ letter:

“Therefore, I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process. Further, I hope Congress will not do so, as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspective do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and the families.”

In other words, we need to ask the straight troops how they feel about serving with openly gay and lesbian soldiers. There has already been at least one forum — not reported extensively, troops were prohibited from discussing with media. And according to a March 18 letter obtained by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the wives, husbands and family members are being polled, too.

That’s right, the world’s mightiest military will ask Mommy and Daddy how they feel about their straight sons’ serving and bunking with the homos.

When did the Pentagon get into the business of surveying troops on decisions made by the commander-in-chief? There were no polls prior to the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. If there were, it would be safe to assume most of the infantry would be less than enthused about the prospect of going to war.

There definitely were no surveys back in 1948 when Harry S. Truman ordered the integration of the armed forces. Sure, the process took several years, and, while it was not a popular decision, it showed one helluva profile in courage. Remember, integration was fairly unpopular back in the ‘40s. On the other hand, repealing DADT in 2010 is a no-brainer. If you want to look at polls, many have shown more than 70 percent of the nation supports repeal.

The soldiers and sailors are already serving with gays and lesbians in their units — ask Lt. Dan Choi or any of the 13,000 plus discharges under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But the specific reason to poll Mom and Dad is — what? If their straight sons come into contact with openly gay soldiers, will the boys start redecorating the mess halls and lip-synching to Cher and Lady Gaga in their bunks?

OK, well maybe that last one was a bad example — the straight troops are already dancing and lip synching to Gaga and it’s being reported by “Stars and Stripes” — but asking the families implies some harm will come. It’s insulting and homophobic.

And the messaging conveyed is that the commander-in-chief’s orders should be questioned. They should never be.

This isn’t the first time the administration polled the opposition on LGBT issues. On April 17, two days after President Obama ordered same-sex hospital visitation rights, the Washington Post published an analysis piece behind the decision. Josh Dubois, who heads the White House’s faith-based outreach, reportedly called Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association to run that decision by her. (Dubois, who is a Pentecostal minister, did not do such due diligence when he booked fellow Pentecostal minister Donnie McClurkin on the campaign trail. Ahem.) There were no objections, which begs the question, if there were some, would the proposal have gone forward?

Let’s hope we won’t have to answer that question on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Rod McCullom is a TV news producer and writer who blogs on politics, pop culture and LGBT news at Rod20.com.

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