September 16, 2010 at 3:54 pm EDT | by Jessica Lee
Conservatives lead, Dems punt on gay rights

The irony is rich. A Republican gay group sues to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in federal court and wins; the administration of our “fierce advocate” Barack Obama defends the law and loses. Is anyone noticing a pattern here?

It is an echo of when, in 2009, the Obama administration in court defended the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton, as a protection against incest.

Libertarians and Republicans are taking a leadership role in equality as Democrats punt.

Despite controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, Democrats are unable or unwilling to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and have instead resorted to letting the Pentagon issue insulting questionnaires that even involve spouses to decide the issue.

In contrast, conservatives and libertarians are moving forward based on principle. In the latest installment, Log Cabin Republicans filed suit against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2004 and they won, just a few days ago. On Sept. 9, a United States District judge in California ruled that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is unconstitutional. Specifically, the ruling states that the policy violates both the Constitution’s First Amendment right of free speech and the Fifth Amendment right of due process.

Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, had this to say:

“The Obama administration has found itself to the right of many conservatives on marriage equality and open military service. Log Cabin Republicans is joined by former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Ambassador John Bolton. We are conspiring to protect our country and uphold the Constitution.”

The constitutional case for equality is strong, and is being most effectively advanced by conservatives. Former George W. Bush Solicitor General Ted Olson is leading the American Foundation for Equal Rights, whose primary purpose is to overturn California’s Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage. They won in California, and Olson, with co-litigator Democrat David Boies, is probably going to the Supreme Court.

And why is Human Rights Campaign and its $30 million budget absent in this fight? No one doubts that HRC’s employees are passionate, competent and committed to equality. The leadership is the problem. Going to cocktail parties at the White House and having a “seat at the table” have not produced change.

HRC is also increasingly engaged in coalition politics that distract from our important, immediate mission of equality. The last three e-mail blasts I have received from HRC were: 1. a call to boycott Arizona; 2. a call to boycott Target; and, 3. a call for gay volunteers to assist Latino immigrants gain citizenship.

HRC has not called volunteers to focus on the one immigration issue that affects gays: the fact that our partners cannot immigrate to the U.S.

As to our “fierce defender” — he is against marriage equality and always was. A few days before the Prop 8 election in 2008, this quote appeared on the front page of the New York Times: “As a Christian — he is a member of the United Church of Christ — Mr. Obama believes that marriage is a sacred union, a blessing from God, and one that is intended for a man and a woman exclusively, according to these supporters and Obama campaign advisers. While he does not favor laws that ban same-sex marriage, and has said he is ‘open to the possibility’ that his views may be ‘misguided,’ he does not support it and is not inclined to fight for it.”

We need to engage all Americans in the fight for equality, including Republicans and straight people. We are a small minority that has been traditionally marginalized and discriminated against. The more allies that we can get, the better. We don’t have to agree on every political point so long as we agree that the Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law. And, increasingly, conservatives are our friends, as they get that.

  • Well, that’s a relief. If I had known that, I would have voted for McCain/Palin.


  • Name ONE sitting Republican Congressman or Senator who is “leading’ on our issues. One? Even one? Not one? Give us a break!

  • Great. There’s a needle in every haystack. It doesn’t change the fact that overwhelmingly more homophobes vote Republican than Democrat.

  • Well stated. HRC seems unfocused and uninterested in deliverables. The liberal coalition that supposedly leads the gay agenda in America is largely a failure.

  • The writer makes a good point. Gays are not united, and in order to make progress we must be.

    It is my strong contention that our victories will be won in the Court System, NOT in the Legislature. What Legal Challenges has the HRC initiated and lead in our favor? Sadly sorry to say that the HRC lobbies Congress rather than assisting litigants for our rights.

    David, Liberals are no less useful or effective to the progress of Gays than Conservatives, but it is the other way around. One sinlgle example, does not suddenly cause Conservatives to change their stripes, nor does it make them the greater supporter of Gays They are not. It is the Conservative blockade that is mostly in the way of progress. To say that one is in favor of DADT repeal, but against repeal of DOMA or against ENDA, etc. is only playing the political game during the current evoloution in public opinion. Generally, Cons are more of a problem than Libs. Please do not attempt to pull the wool over these readers eyes by portraying Conservatives as the better choice as it relates to Gay issues. Republicans support wacko Tea Party candidates, who, and remember this, will come back to bite us in the rear end with opposition to the Social Rights of Gays. Wait and watch.

  • I think everyone is missing the point. No one’s saying the conservatives are now the gay rights party. I think what they’re saying is – look what happened. You can barely tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans on gay issues any more. The Democrats are AWOL – that’s the point. That the Republicans have gotten ever so slightly less rabid only underscores that it really makes no difference which party you vote for – neither of them are really doing us much good at all. To the courts!

  • Hooray for the LCR’s, and shame on Obama and the HRC. Nonetheless, if Ms. Lee thinks that her cherry-picked examples represent conservatives as a whole, she is kidding herself. Also, regarding her reference to “Libertarians and Republicans,” since when is social libertarianism the same as social conservatism? They are closer to being exact opposites.

  • Each side is looking for an advantage so that they can excite their base and appeal to like-minded independents. Sometimes the people get ahead of the politicians and, it appears, on issues like DADT this is the case. Now, that being said, the Democrats have been more consistent in trying to move the ball forward. Since we’re in football season, I’ll continue with the analogy. Sometimes a play will get you yards and other times you get “sacked” it all depends on the quarterback and a good line of defense. Unfortunately, our QB – President Obama – is having to play multiple games at once. Consequently, he’s fumbled more than we’d like but he’s still able move the ball forward. Sure, there will be time outs and penalties but I’m confident he and the Democrats will win on our issues in the end. The President needs good Democrats in Congress to play both Offense and Defense so we need to make sure that we show up at the polls and “win won for the Gipper!”.

  • As disappointing as the democratic leadership has been on gay issues, there would have been much less movement and hope if republicans had maintained control of the legislature….and we’ll likely see this in action after November.

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