One of the myriad of ways Barack Obama tricked Americans into voting for him was to promise the LGBT community the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that allows for active discrimination against the nation’s gay community. For the past 17 years, our country’s military has removed individuals who publicly admit to being homosexual. The LGBT community has fought for some time to change this policy so that men and women may serve openly regardless of sexuality, so when Senator Obama campaigned against the discriminating policy it became a rallying cry for the community and seemed as if victory was at hand.
Days after his election, Obama quickly acted to let the wind out of their sails by admitting that this important step would not be addressed until well into his term (if at all). He has, since his inauguration, strung along equality proponents, frequently dangling the carrot in front of our eyes, by repeating his intentions ad nauseam. Despite his commander-in-chief status and his ability to end this policy with the signing of an executive order at a moment’s notice, it’s quite clear by this point that President Obama has no intention of doing so, relying instead on his strategy of “staying above the fray” and letting congress take the responsibility.
The New York Times reports that with 2009 being mostly devoted to an ultimately failed healthcare reform debate, Obama did not want to add another “polarizing” debate to distract from his insurance industry bailout. The fact is that the only people for whom this is controversial is predominately with bigots in congress and the military. Several polls have recently shown that majorities of the American public believes in the importance of equality in our military. Polls done by Democracy Corps and Quinnipiac show about 55% support equality while 37% want DADT continued.
Meanwhile the President excuses his lack of action because “the military was stretched in two wars.” House Minority Leader John Boehner agreed on Meet the Press saying, “In the middle of two wars and in the middle of this giant security threat, why would we want to get into this debate?” Are you both so blind to the issue that you cannot, in fact, see that your excuses are the exact reason that we should be removing this repression? Is it so hard to understand that in a time of two wars that expelling thousands of individuals for trivial reasons would create a stress on the military? Does not the military need anyone willing to volunteer? I’m angered even more by Representative Boehner’s reasoning by having the guts to bring up “giant security threat[s].” The Representative seems to regard the loss of people like National Guard Lt. Daniel Choi not to be a security threat. Despite Arabic-linguists being in short supply in our military, Mr. Choi is facing expulsion and we will be left that much more weakened by his loss. Mr. Boehner, your defense of this policy is what is creating the very excuse you are using to keep it in place. At best, your circular-logic is astounding; at worst, you are a bigot.
Now, we are seeing the beginnings of what may be the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. After another airing of the tired refrain during the State of the Union address, President Obama again pledged his support for a repeal. Tomorrow, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen will announce their plans to carry out a repeal of DADT with an act of congress. It is also expected that Gates will announce an end to action against service members whose sexual orientation is revealed by third parties or jilted partners. As with almost every action of the Obama administration it is important not to rest until the President has pen in hand, ready to sign.
Elaine Donnelly, a “crusader against gays in the military” and president of the Center for Military Readiness, has come out in favor of more draconian policies prohibiting women from service (and blaming them for the scandals at Abu Ghraib) and keeping open gays from becoming teachers (Videos featuring Ms. Donnelly in a House Military Personnel Subcommittee can be found here). Indeed, Senator-elect Scott Brown cannot even bring himself to publicly express an opinion on the matter. How a senator from a state that allows same-sex marriage has any hesitance about repealing DADT boggles the mind, especially when asking how he plans to stay elected. Those who would defend the status quo are not acting in any concern for “security threats” or a “stretched military” but only because of their own prejudices and desire to keep us divided amongst ourselves.