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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 It is now 2009, when 69% of the American public believes that DADT should be repealed.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.”