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Reason for DADT comment: pressure, not encouragement

Timothy Kincaid

February 1st, 2010

The New York Times has an article about President Obama’s pledge to reverse Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the anti-gay Military policy, in which they report the impetus for movement on the issue:

President Obama and top Pentagon officials met repeatedly over the past year about repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law that bans openly gay members of the military.

But it was in Oval Office strategy sessions to review court cases challenging the ban — ones that could reach the Supreme Court — that Mr. Obama faced the fact that if he did not change the policy, his administration would be forced to defend publicly the constitutionality of a law he had long opposed.

It is interesting that the President’s timing was not swayed by encouragement from gay supporters, but rather as a result of legal actions of a gay group hostile to the administration. Although the Times does not note it, the only lawsuit against DADT which is currently advancing is Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America. (Update: The Log Cabin case is, I believe, the only organizational case. There is at least one other individual case.)

Log Cabin, an organization of gay Republicans, will not shade their press releases about their lawsuit in a way that is favorable to the administration or in a way that provides cover. They do not get invited to Obama White House cocktail parties, have access to administration insiders, or have anything else to lose. Nor do they feel constrained by any desire to protect the Democratic Party.

I think that as much as the administration wants to avoid defending constitutionality, they really want to avoid the negative publicity that defending this unjust policy could bring. At it must be especially galling that those accusing the President and his administration of being anti-gay are are group of Republicans.

Comments

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Tina
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

Tim,

Any chance this could be talked about on your next podcast?

I’d love to hear the 3 of you talk about how this is may or may not color your views about how we make progress.

John
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

I think that the Log Cabin Republican lawsuit did put pressure on the Administration, and I would agree that “encouragement” from the pro-administration gay groups has had virtually no effect.

However, Obama is worried far more about all the gay voters who supported him (mostly Democratic or Independent) who are becoming more and more frustrated with him and his administration. Even the mainstream press talk about how alienated this “key Democratic” group is with this administration. He knows that he has to do something, and probably calculated that this was more possible than ENDA or overturning DOMA.

He now knows that he is going to need something in 2012 when asking for gay votes. He is going to face losses in Congress in 2010, so this is his last opportunity to do anything to save
the gay vote.

Most Presidential elections have been very close. He can’t afford to have angry gay voters refusing to vote for him, even if they don’t vote for the Republican.

Oh, and his administration’s previous response to the suit against the DOMA (not put forward by Republicans) was an absolute disaster for this administration’s relationship with gay voters.

Pender
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

This is EXACTLY why the log cabin republicans are an essential part of our coalition. It’s a shame this is such a controversial idea for so many gays.

Joey
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

Comments made on this site frequently make me embarrassed to be gay. I’ve spent my whole life trying to convince the public that they have nothing to fear from the neighborhood gay. I don’t want to indoctrinate their children, I don’t care what their creed teaches them about my sex life, I respect freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the democratic process. In other words, I am not some kind of aggressive, caterwauling, in-your-face queer activist.

For a long time, I thought that the hesitation of some straight people to fully accept the gays in their midst was borne of complete misinformation, a false picture of what gays are. Now that I’ve read a little more, I find myself wondering if I am the exception, not the rule. Are all gays really so pushy? Well, NO…I know that. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that there are a lot of gay crusaders out there who don’t respect the rights of others.

I consider myself a liberal in the classical sense. I think gays would be better served if more of us adopted that pose.

Zach
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

Your post has a severe case of the vague, Joey. Who’s been pushy? In what respect? How, specifically, would you recommend we formulate our commentary instead?

Priya Lynn
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

Yes, I’m curious to Joey – what rights of others do you think gays aren’t respecting?

stealthfighter
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

Obama didn’t seem to afraid of defending DOMA, with the most offensive and bigoted language they could find. I doubt a fear of defending DADT in court is a primary driving force behind the announcement. I also doubt that any real policy change is going to happen this year. Obama’s words are just that: words. Now that the brass are coming out against the policy he has the cover he needs to walk it back: “the generals on the ground advise caution, and I trust their judgment.”

AdrianT
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

So, the administration doesn’t give a damn really. For your next podcast, I think you should get someone from the administration on to explain themselves.

Burr
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

Where’s the link to the article?

Joey is coming across as a bit of a concern troll..

Priya Lynn
February 1st, 2010 | LINK

Yes, no response from Joey, I think he was full of it.

Timothy (TRiG)
February 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Concern troll? I thought that term was used only on Pharyngula. It’s a good one, though.

(Incidentally, I met PZ Myers last night.)

TRiG.

Ron
February 2nd, 2010 | LINK

The article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/us/politics/01military.html

Richard Rush
February 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Speaking of DADT: Given that apparently 10,000 gays have been discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, I’m wondering what the number might have been over the same period if we still had Do Ask Do Tell. Would the number discharged likely have been much different? Does anyone know the rate of discharge under the old policy?

Seth
February 2nd, 2010 | LINK

With respect, I think your premise is mistaken.

The litigation pressure is likely coming from Witte and the post-Witte cases percolating in the district court in the Ninth Circuit. Witte was brought (and is currently being litigated) by the ACLU, not Log Cabin.

werdna
February 2nd, 2010 | LINK

The case Seth is referring to is Witt v. US Dept. of the Air Force and it’s scheduled for a hearing in Washington state in September of this year: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/409816_witt02.html

And indeed, the existence of this suit, in addition to the LCR suit, is probably why the Times used the plural “cases”.

George Bingham
February 2nd, 2010 | LINK

Joey, I don’t think gays are being “pushy”, I think (some) gays are being ANGRY! Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, as it certainly bothers me more now than it did when I was young. I think that a lot of the gay & lesbian kids I see growing up today having an easier time (in general) coming out to friends and family is a good and encouraging thing, but I also see so many very damaging instances of hate – of violence (that I personally experienced for the first time in my 40’s)- of religious persecution – Yes, I mean “persecution” because that’s what it is! I’m tired of it and I want it to stop! I want to see a generation grow up in a society where it truly is not an issue anymore – and I’m running out of time to achieve that! So, I personally will “push” all I can for marriage rights, military service rights, against prejudice and religious persecution! If you think I’m going overboard, ask yourself how you feel about it when you’re approaching 50!

Timothy Kincaid
February 2nd, 2010 | LINK

The Obama Administration was greatly embarrassed in the Smelt case. But that case was remitted back to refiling. Other than Log Cabin and Witt, I’m not sure that there are any others that are active but would certainly welcome any updated info.

werdna
February 3rd, 2010 | LINK

Speaking of updated info, isn’t this sentence from your post in need of a correction: “Although the Times does not note it, the only lawsuit against DADT which is currently advancing is Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America”?

Timothy Kincaid
February 3rd, 2010 | LINK

werda,

I’ve revised the commentary. I hesitate to equate individual cases with organizational cases. Although I’m not an attorney, I believe that the results of such cases are not the same.

While a case on an individual can be narrowly decided and diverted to merits other than those central to DADT, organizational cases tend to address all servicepeople (sorry if that is a bit of a simplistic description).

You are right that the Obama administration does not want to publicly defend DADT in either type of case. Indeed, both cases would embarrass the President.

However, I suspect that they fear the PR from Log Cabin more than they do from the low-profile Witt (who seems not to want to try this in the court of public opinion).

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