The story first surfaced in a report from Daily Beast correspondent Jason Bellini who cited Senator Chuck Schumer and an unnamed source. Radio personality Michelangelo Signorile quoted Palm Center's Aaron Belkin confirming that HRC was working behind the scenes to get DADT pushed to the back burner. Schumer's office denied Bellini's claim, saying "...he never said the Human Rights Campaign struck some quote-unquote deal on this issue. Any rumors to the contrary are flat-out wrong."
I didn't post on the rumors at the time for two basic reasons.
With so many rumors and denials floating around, no one really knows what's going on.
While the rumor mill has HRC placing a higher value on ENDA and hate crimes legislation, a Bilerico Project poll from August 9, 2008 put a fully inclusive ENDA in the number one spot. Instead of hate crimes though, our second place winner was "relationship recognition" (aka marriage!). Don't Ask Don't Tell tied for next-to-last place with HIV/AIDS.
Don't Ask Don't Tell has never been the hot organizing issue for the LGBT community. The reasons are myriad; many LGBT people don't want to join the military, others are opposed to violence and the military industrial complex, and a huge portion of the allied community simply didn't know any queer service members to personalize the story.
After Bill Clinton got his ass handed to him in the first few months of his administration when he tackled the issue of gays in the military, you can't blame Obama's advisers or LGBT leadership for being a little dubious about jumping headlong into the fray. We ended up with DADT because politicians weren't prepared for the political battle.
Organizations like Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Palm Center have done the due diligence of laying the groundwork for a full repeal of DADT. Obama has said he opposed the law and is working to repeal it. While it's considered a slam dunk, this is an issue you want to be 110% guaranteed you'll win on.
President Obama has committed to working for full LGBT equality - not just one or another issues. HRC has also committed to working for our rights. Whether or not we agree or disagree with either of their tactics or reasons, we can't dispute that they're fighting for our community in their own ways.
Both Obama and HRC have been accused of being elitist and stubborn. Yet, if the rumor is true, they've both done exactly the opposite. Instead of picking the low hanging fruit of DADT and helping only a small minority of our community, they picked the two issues that would help the most people.
National hate crimes legislation helps all of us; we'd all be protected. A fully inclusive ENDA would similarly protect everyone. Repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell only helps a small minority of our community who wants to serve in the military. Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act just benefits that small group of LGBT couples who live in a handful of states that recognize their relationships.
So if - if - HRC had a hand in guiding Obama's eye towards ENDA and hate crimes legislation before tackling the repeal of DADT, I'd like to extend a big fat thank you for promoting legislation that will give me protections I don't currently have.
Thanks for sharing the same priorities as the majority of our readers too, HRC. Because that is the most newsworthy aspect of the story - otherwise this story could be headlined, "Rumors Say HRC and Obama Plot to Help Most Queers Possible."