On Saturday President Barack Obama addressed the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, vowing to end discrimination against gay and lesbian servicemembers in the Armed Forces via the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)” policy. The policy, set up during the Clinton Administration, allows homosexuals to serve as long as they are not “out” or open about their sexuality. It was hastily set up when President Bill Clinton’s hopes of ending sexual discrimination in the military hit a wall in the early 1990s.
Attitudes have changed some since the early 1990s. While homosexuals still face discrimination, American society has become more open to the idea of gays and lesbians being open about their sexuality. And with the US in the midst of prosecuting two wars and needing every Marine, soldier and sailor they can gather, news of servicemen and women being discharged due to DADT has come at a cost.
Obama ran for president under the pretense that he would end the policy and allow for gays to serve openly as they do in the United Kingdom, Israel and other Western countries. Alas, a lot of people, including myself at times, are antsy to see the president and Congress follow through on this promise.
Considering the fact that most arguments against gays serving openly are the same ones that were given against women, blacks and other minorities (it would disturb moral, cause fights, ruin unit cohesion, etc.), I’m someone who thinks these arguments have always been false arguments rooted in homophobia, just as the others were cloaked in racism and sexism. If you’re getting shot at, in trouble or hurt, do you honestly care about the sexual orientation of the soldier coming to save you? No, no. You say. I’d rather just bleed to death to the gay medic. Please don’t fly me out of this hell hole Lesbian helicopter pilot. I’m just going to lie here and die rather than be helped by some queers. It’s ridiculous.
So I can understand many Liberals and members of the gay, lesbian and transgendered community when they express their angst over why someone they elected to end DADT hasn’t ended it yet. (see Maddow, Rachel)
It’s a hurry up and wait situation. Of course you want DADT to end and you want Obama to follow through on his promise, but there is the matter of Congress and Obama is, quite possibly, the most “gay-friendly” president since Clinton botched DADT. He’s only the second president to address the Human Rights Campaign and we all know how hard it is to nail down any politician, regardless of party, who isn’t the Bay Area’s own Nancy Pelosi or openly gay congressman Barney Frank on gay issues.
There’s also the fact that Obama is drowning in issues and expectations — Nobel Peace Prize, anyone? He has the healthcare crisis, the economic crisis, two wars, terrorism, North Korea, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Iran, the energy crisis, a gaggle of Bush-era loose ends that need tightening and whatever the disaster of the week is. (I think this week is more Afghanistan woes.) There’s a real fear that if he tossed DADT up on the pile everything could come crashing down. Still, how do you prioritize so many important priorities? Not dealing with DADT leads to more and more servicemen and women being discharged from the military when you need them to fight — which doesn’t exactly help those two wars.
Plus you have a wavering base that while isn’t under much threat of going with the pro-DADT other team, could become less impassioned, more disillusioned and not show their support at all.
From the Associated Press:
Some advocates said they already have heard Obama’s promises and now they want a timeline. Cleve Jones, a pioneer activist and creator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, said Obama delivered a brilliant speech, but added “it lacked the answer to our most pressing question, which is when.”
“He repeated his promises that he’s made to us before, but he did not indicate when he would accomplish these goals and we’ve been waiting for a while now,” said Jones, national co-chair of a major gay-rights rally scheduled for Sunday on the National Mall.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said he was encouraged to hear Obama’s pledge but added “an opportunity was missed tonight.” He said his group “was disappointed the president did not lay out a timeline and specifics for repeal.”
Obama also called on Congress to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act, which limits how state, local and federal bodies can recognize partnerships and determine benefits. He also called for a law to extend benefits to domestic partners.
He expressed strong support for the HRC agenda of ending discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people but stopped short of laying out a detailed plan for how to get there.
It’s good that Obama is willing to address issues pertaining to gender and sexuality directly, but I too would like to hear something like a timeline sooner rather than later. I understand the weight of the world and its expectations hang on the president’s shoulders, but I voted for Obama for several reasons. Restoring common sense by booting DADT was one of them. Let’s kepp the common sense parade marching on and get some specifics on how this policy will end.