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Posts for June, 2009

LGBT Insurrection Against The Democratic Party

Jim Burroway

June 15th, 2009

[Update: Three more LGBT advocates have declined to attend the DNC fundraiser in Washington next week. See below.]

President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that he won’t make a move to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban on LGBT people serving openly in the military, because ultimately it is up to Congress to change the law. His spokespeople have repeated this in answer to questions about why he hasn’t issued a stop loss order in order to halt the ongoing discharges of qualified gays and lesbians from the armed forces. They have, in effect, thrown the ball completely into the Congress’ court.

Now we have word from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the reason the repeal of DADT has gone no where in the Senate is because no one has sponsored the legislation in the Senate. What’s more, he threw the hot potato right back into the President’s hands:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaking at a press conference Monday said he has no plans to introduce a bill to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the Senate.

“I haven’t identified any sponsors,” he said. “My hope is that it can be done administratively.”

A Democratic aide later clarified that Reid was speaking about the possibility of using an executive order to suspend discharges or perhaps halting enforcement of the policy by changing departmental regulations within the Department of Defense.

Which, of course, won’t happen because the President is waiting on Congress, which in turn is waiting on the President.

This shouldn’t be that hard. This isn’t 1993, when DADT was signed into law by a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President. It is now 2009, when 69% of the American public believes that DADT should be repealed. When’s the last time two-thirds of Americans were united on anything else? What’s more, even 58% of Republicans and 60% of weekly churchgoers thing it’s time for DADT to go.

With public support like this, the age old question — If now now, when? — becomes less of a rallying cry and more of a taunt. Seriously, if not now, when?  We don’t need a “fierce advocate” for this one. All we need is for someone to grow a pair — and they don’t have to be very big ones.

But that’s not likely to happen. John Berry, the White House director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest ranking gay official in the Obama administration, spoke with the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld about progress on LGBT rights. He predicted that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill would pass the Senate sometime this week. But what about repealing DADT and DOMA, or enacting a fully inclusive Employment Non-Description Act? Well, he says, they want to do it sometime “before the sun sets on this administration.”

This nebulous timetable is meaningless. If it doesn’t happen well before the 2010 mid-term elections, then we will be dependent on Obama winning a second term. After all, the next Presidential campaign will effectively begin in 2011. And there’s no guarantee that Obama will win that second term.

Which means either it happens now, or the Democratic party will essentially hold LGBT rights hostage for 2012.

DNC Fundraiser announcement. Click to enlarge

DNC Fundraiser announcement. Click to enlarge

With that news, coupled with the recent Department of Justice brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act which insults the integrity and intelligence of LGBT people everywhere, leading LGBT Democratic political veterans are beginning to register their disgust with the Democratic Party. Heck, even the Human Rights Campaign, often derided for its soft touch with political leaders, sent a sternly worded letter to Obama concerning the DOMA brief.

Meanwile, the DNC will hold a fundraiser next week in Washington, dubbed the LGBT Leadership Council Dinner. The featured speaker at the fundraiser will be Vice President Joe Biden. Openly gay Congressional representatives Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, and Jared Polis will be in attendance.

But some key gay activists are beginning to turn down their invitations to this event. Confirmed now-shows so far include political strategist David Mixner and blogger Andy Towle. [Update: Additional withdrawals include Alan Van Capelle, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda and Foundation, former top Clinton administration aide Richard Socarides, and HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse] Michelangelo Signorile has suggested that we “cut off the money flow.” Sean Bugg agrees, while Mike Rogers (a.k.a. “the most feared man in Washington”) puts an even finer point on it:

As long as tens of millions are being spent by the Pentagon to enforce Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, gays should say to politicians “you have our money, go get it back from Secretary Gates.”

More Reactions to Obama Administration’s Defense of DOMA

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2009

People are justifiably furious over the Obama administration’s DOJ brief filed with the Supreme Court defending DOMA. Here’s Pam Spaulding:

This is a President who said he is a “fierce advocate” for our rights. This doesn’t look much like an advocate, it looks more like an enemy pulling the pin on the grenade and tossing it at us. While this may not be the perfect test case for DOMA, the Obama administration, in its defense of the Act, has filed a brief that is a roadmap for every fundnut anti-gay argument against the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Andrew Sullivan:

There’s a completely decent reason to keep DOMA in place for the time being, especially in the federal courts right now – where bad precedents could wound us in the future. But to file an actual brief re-stating some of the worst and most denigrating arguments against gay civil equality is just bizarre. They could have argued for a narrow ruling or kept the “reasonable” arguments to a minimum. What they did – without any heads up to any of their gay supporters and allies – is unconscionable. Citing incest precedents? Calling gay couples free-loaders? Arguing that our civil rights are not impinged because we can marry someone of the opposite sex? Who on earth decided that that was a great idea?

…I’m baffled by this, I really am. The content of this brief is a massive political error from an administration that is making it impossible for its gay supporters to stay supportive. What’s next? A Clintonian political ad boasting of these arguments?

John Aravosis, when he’s not mad at others for not pushing the incest meme. Sorry, John. I love you and admire your work, but we disagree on that point. But not on this:

Today is the 42nd anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case overturning Virginia’s ban on inter-racial marriages. The Obama people, working for the product of an inter-racial marriage, sure have an eye for irony.

Chris Geidner at Law Dork:

Even if one argues, as I often have, that a government lawyer — from the Department of Justice to state attorneys general — must defend even those laws with which one disagrees*, such a lawyer needn’t overstate his or her case. The government lawyer defending a statute with which she disagrees needn’t add gratuitous demeaning statements into the legal brief she files.

Unlike the Obama Administration’s brief filed in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell case turned away by the Supreme Court this week, last night’s filing in Smelt v. United States goes too far.  It’s offensive, it’s dismissive, it’s demeaning and — most importantly — it’s unnecessary.  Even if one accepts that DOJ should have filed a brief opposing this case (and the facts do suggest some legitimate questions about standing), the gratuitous language used throughout the filing goes much further than was necessary to make its case.

…Perhaps the simplest way to express my anger at this filing is to reprint what is easily the most disingenuous line of the brief, at p. 32:

DOMA does not discriminate against homosexuals in the provision of federal benefits.

Another lawyer, Dale Carpenter at the Volokh Conspiracy:

More bluntly put, the Obama DOJ is saying that DOMA doesn’t discriminate against gays and lesbians because they are free to marry people of the opposite sex. No “homosexual” is denied marriage so homosexuals qua homosexuals suffer no hardship. Gay man? Marry a woman, says the DOJ. Lesbian? There’s a nice boy across the street. It’s identical in form to the defense of Texas’s Homosexual Conduct law in Lawrence v. Texas: a law banning only gay sex doesn’t discriminate against gays because it equally forbids homosexuals and heterosexuals to have homosexual sex and because it equally allows homosexuals and heterosexuals to have heterosexual sex. This sort of formalism has incited howls of laughter over the years when made by religious conservatives. Now it’s the official constitutional position of the Obama administration.

…My point here is not to claim that the DOJ’s arguments are anti-gay, homophobic, or even wrong. Much of the brief seems right to me, or at least entirely defensible, as a matter of constitutional law. My point is only to note how much continuity there is in this instance, as in others, between the Bush and Obama administrations. In short, there’s little in this brief that could not have been endorsed by the Bush DOJ. A couple of rhetorical flourishes here and there might have been different. Perhaps a turn of phrase. But, minus some references to procreation and slippery slopes, the substance is there.

Obama says he opposes DOMA as a policy matter and wants to repeal it. Nothing in the DOJ brief prevents him from acting on that belief. He is, he says, a “fierce advocate” for gay and lesbian Americans. When does that part start?

David Link at Independent Gay Forum:

It is gratuitously insulting to lesbians and gay men, referring (unnecessarily) to same-sex marriage as a “form” of marriage, approving of congressional comparisons between same-sex marriages and loving relationships between siblings, or grandparents and grandchildren, and arguing (with a straight face, I can only assume) that discrimination against same-sex couples is rational because it saves the federal government money.  There are some respectable arguments in this motion, and this kind of disrespect is offensive.

Chris Crain:

The people in the Justice Department writing this brief made so many discredited and ridiculous arguments for DOMA, I hope these were really intended to help the court see the fallacy of DOMA to persuade the court to strike it down. Otherwise my only other conclusion is that the Obama White House has thrown us overboard.

Dan Savage:

Barack Obama’s record on gay rights so far: disturbing, unsound, false, discriminatory, damaging, nonsensical. Before today you could argue that the Obama administration was too busy with the economy and the war and health care to focus on making good on his campaign promises to gays and lesbians, that Obama simply didn’t have the time to take up our issues. But you can’t make that argument anymore. The Obama administration has the time to take up gay rights issues—but only, it seems, to do harm.

I can’t take my vote back. And I’m not sure I would if I could. But I sure as hell would like to have my money back.

And Andy Towle:

Happy Stonewall anniversary everybody!