Don’t ask don’t don’t tell Gay Rights and the Obama Administration

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy regarding the service of gays in the U.S. military is on its way out according to President Obama. On the eve of National Coming out day the president stated to about 3,000 people attending the HRC annual dinner marking the anniversary of the Gay Rights March on Washington; “I will end Don’t ask-Don’t tell.” Will he received applause at that moment the feeling when the evening would down was “Don’t count on it, Don’t hold your breath. Like most promises made to the gay community for delivering him the vote, he has to this point been sorely lacking in substance but long on more promises to follow through with the promises he has left on a cold back-burner.

President Obama made the DADT policy a part of his platform, but like many other promises he made too many groups of people, a lot are starting to wonder if he is at all genuine. While most rational people do agree there are far bigger fish to fry right now, namely the sagging economy, gay rights advocates are not asking for miracles or overnight changes. All they are asking is when. They just want some time line that states this will actually be done. They also want to know if the issue has even been looked at since he took office.

President Obama stated, “I appreciate that many of you don’t believe progress has come fast enough…Do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach.” The problem is that in class political double-speak, Obama sidestepped the real question and just turned the tables trying to convince every one they were being impatient because the repeal has yet to take place. The reality is nobody expected a repeal this year, or even in 2010 for the most part. What they did expect is that plans for it would at least be in the infancy stages, not just some tired rhetoric dragged out once a year for a speech to the powers behind the gay rights movement.

Cleve Jones whom served under slain gay Politician Harvey Milk and founded the NAMES Project (AIDS Memorial Quilt) remarked, “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 awhile now.” In a White House that promised transparency and a new age of the open exchange of information, this is notably one thing the administration has managed to keep a pretty secure lid on. Either that or as many do firmly believe they have in actuality done nothing regarding the DADT policy.

Obama stated: “We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve the country,” Obama said. “We should be celebrating their willingness to step forward and show such courage … especially when we are fighting two wars.” Not all people that have served in the military under the DADT policy or prior to it agree that Obama is doing enough to follow through on his promises or to end discrimination of all kinds which was a key pitch he made to many groups of people. Galia Myron of went so far as to conduct in depth research further exposing how DADT has been highly inequitable insofar as lesbians in the armed forces face a much higher discharge rate then gay men for the same offense. Obviously equality and justice as promised are needed now, and while President Obama is talking a good game and smiling, the question is what is he really doing about it?

This is not the first time President Obama has played this game with the gay community. He did petition Congress to start taking steps to repeal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and set a policy in place to extend benefits to gay partnerships. So far he has been able to take a pass on that saying it is in their hands, yet it is also no secret if he wanted to push it through he could. He made countless promises that he was going to get tough on hate crimes and discrimination against LGBTQI people, yet this is another thing that somehow has become lost in the shuffle with no discussions on record, and no plans for discussions. just more promises it is all being taken care.

The director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Aubrey Sarvis intimated that what Obama said was “encouraging”, yet like many others that it has all been said before. “An opportunity was missed tonight.” Sarvis commented that he was disappointed no time line for a DADT repeal was laid out or even mentioned.

HRC director Joe Solomonese said before the dinner and Presidents speech, “We’ve never had a stronger ally in the White House.” Not all were in agreement as some commented thoughts that they never had anyone that sidestepped the issues so eloquently in the White House, or that turned the tables and pointed an accusatory finger for being unreasonable with such a nice smile.

Former Clinton adviser on LGBT policy Richard Socrides echoed what most people in the room for the speech did in that he delivered “a strong speech in tone, although only vaguely reassuring in content.” Socrides is right in that prior to the October tenth speech the only comment from the Obama administration regarding DADT since taking office is that it will be dealt with “at the right time” came through his national security adviser.

In short grading the Obama administration on gay rights and following through with promises has been fairly simple as evidenced by the following report card:

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – F
So far nothing has been done.

DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) – F+
Papers were filed by the administration in August of 2009 for a repeal that is noted as being half-hearted by most LGBT people. He will not push for equal marriage but rather limited rights partnerships.

Anti-Gay hate crimes legislation – C
Approved By Congress, stalled in the Senate. Obama has stated he will sign this into law if approved.

ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) – F
The administration has done nothing they promised so far as this bill which would make it illegal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation or gender presentation.

While it is unreasonable to expect any politician to live up to every promise made and follow through on all those that they do choose to keep right away, it is also not unreasonable for constituents to expect that those politicians do have to answer as to why they have not been kept. It is not unreasonable for constituents to ask and get an answer as to how and when promises will be kept other than just placating the community, being told to be patient and keep the checks flowing. As such at this point in time the Obama administration can be said to be failing with a 0.5 GPA regarding the promises made to the gay community.