Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why We Have to Push Obama on Gay Rights

So here's the basic story where Obama is on gay rights:

1) He opposes same-sex marriage. That's something most in the gay rights movement have mostly decided to deal with.

2) He has promised to end Don't Ask Don't Tell, which bars gay men and women from serving in the military.

But here's the thing -- he could easily end Don't Ask Don't Tell any day with the swipe of a pen with an executive order. And most people in the country want him to do it. Yet he hasn't done it and hasn't even announced when he plans to do it.

The longer the Democrats drag their feet on this one, the more gay people who are crucial to our national security will get kicked out of the military.

So to get this straight, Obama could score a huge victory for gay rights and do more to promote our national security with a simple executive order -- and most people in the country want him to -- and he won't do it?

Why does a single day go by without Obama doing this? It boggles the mind.

But we live in a democratic country. We have rights and privileges that allow us to petition and protest our government to force it to bring its behavior into line with the public will.

Recently President Obama signed an order that extended benefits to same-sex partners serving in the foreign service. Many people applauded this move as simply compassion on his part. But the story was actually a lot deeper than that.

See, a number of big gay donors started a boycott of the Democratic National Committee following Obama's use of the DOJ to defend Don't Ask Don't Tell.

While Obama still hasn't moved on DADT, he did move on this issue of extending benefits -- and he did it to try to appease the gay rights movement exactly because it threatened to withhold funding from his political party.

This shows we have power. This shows that when we fight, we can win.

We need to keep this up. I know I will.

I'll do it for the same reason that I work for a universal healthcare system -- hopefully single payer -- and the same reason I want a just middle eastern policy and more labor rights and a more environmental regulation: because I'm my brother's keeper. And a lot of my brothers (and sisters) are gay, and they don't deserve to be jettisoned from military service because of something completely unrelated to their service.

Every day that goes by that President Obama chooses to continue this bigoted, unpopular, and irrational policy is another day that Obama too deserves to be viewed as bigoted, unpopular, and irrational. If he doesn't like that, he could always write the executive order and finally end this policy.


griftdrift said...


Choose one. DADT or health care reform.

Zaid at UGA said...

The difference is in 1994 most people were for DADT and Clinton's health plan sucked so badly labor didn't even back it. Most people do not agree with DADT today and Obama's health plan while far from really getting to where it needs to be, looks to be shaping up to be a lot better than Bill Clinton's and also labor across the country has pledged to back it.

griftdrift said...

I agree Zaid that circumstances are much different and the dynamics in some cases are completely flipped. However, I think that Andrew Sullivan is correct in his analysis that we have to believe Obama is being shrewd. It seems like a lot of things are getting the back burner and the only possible explanation (outside of him being a total tool) is that he is garnering as much political capital as possible for the all out war that will be the health care battle.

People tend to forget that he is a Chicago politician (and I don't mean that in the right wing perjorative sense)- they rarely do anything without a plan and a purpose - and many times their opponents never see it coming.

Zaid at UGA said...

I'm sure he has his reasons, but I'm not sure what they are or if they're good ones. It might be that he's waiting until he gets into some other battle with the gay rights crowd (maybe on same sex marriage) and decides to slash DADT then instead, to build some political capital. I don't know.