Sean Bugg

DADT and the Democratic finger trap

Filed By Sean Bugg | July 30, 2009 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Congress, Democrats, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Rachel Maddow, Ted Kennedy

Editors' Note: Sean Bugg is a Bilerico-DC blogger and is a founding writer and editor of Metro Weekly, Washington's gay and lesbian newsmagazine.

For a discriminatory anti-gay policy that every Democratic leader has publicly denounced and called for repealing, Don't Ask, Don't Tell has some impressive staying power. Just this week Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) introduced an amendment to the military appropriations bill that would have prohibited the use of those funds for implementation of DADT -- no dollars for discharges.

No dice, either, as unnamed folks from the White House and Hastings's congressional colleagues laid down the law that this was not to be done. So Hastings withdrew his amendment.

Meanwhile, over on the north side of Capitol Hill, the sizable Democratic majority showed once again that when it comes to actually moving forward on LGBT issues there aren't so many of them that they can't easily disappear. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)was prepared to introduce a bill that would suspend DADT implementation, but her colleagues weren't prepared to join her so the proposal was dropped. All this results from the Democratic conviction that anything more controversial than puppies has to be totally filibuster proof before moving forward.

The Democrats have become a political finger trap for the LGBT community -- the harder you work to elect them, the less you can actually get out of them.

And the continuing ghost of Clinton circa 1993 that hovers over all White House considerations on LGBT issues -- Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod apparently didn't get the memo that not quite as many people hate the homos as they used to -- bodes ill for any actual leadership from President Obama.

And why is there no bill as of yet to straightforwardly repeal DADT? From Kerry Eleveld at The Advocate:

"Sen. Kennedy has been and continues to be the leader on this issue," said one Senate Democratic aide.

Senator Kennedy's office has said for months that the Senator is searching for a Republican cosponsor before introducing the bill, but he has no doubt been focused on achieving President Barack Obama's top priority, health reform. Kennedy is also contending with health issues related to his diagnosis of brain cancer.

I have a lot of sympathy for Kennedy's health situation -- the same type of aggressive brain cancer that he's fighting killed my stepfather. It's a horrifying and debilitating disease. But given the open discussion in Washington about his plans to stay in the Senate despite his health for the express purpose of passing health care reform, I'm puzzled why ancient Senate protocols and deferences must be maintained to the point of delaying the repeal of an indefensible policy.

Oh, and it's good to know that part of the hold-up is that we're waiting for some Republicans to get on board. Again, it's great that we have that sizable Democratic majority in the Senate. Imagine if they had 70 seats -- they could really not get a lot of stuff done then.

Reporting on Hastings' hasty withdrawal of the appropriations amendment, Rachel Maddow asked if there were any strategy at all to repeal DADT: "Do ask, do tell." It's a legitimate question, and one our community must continue to ask. More importantly, we all need to be calling and writing our elected officials -- constituents matter. They made promises and we voted for them -- it's time they cast a vote for us.


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A. J. Lopp | July 30, 2009 4:16 PM

Since not everyone can afford to go to the March on Washington on October 11, I would like to suggest that we organize 50 rallies at 50 statehouses demanding the repeal of DADT, to take place on Veteran's Day, Wednesday, November 11.

With good turnouts, that could be part of our strategy to repeal DADT.

John Shields John Shields | July 31, 2009 9:37 AM

Sean, great article. DADT shouldn't have been enacted in the first place (by a Democratic president and congress), and now with significant public support for repeal and a Democratic president and congress it still isn't happening. FTW?

As for A.J.'s idea about a 50-state (+ D.C.) action on Veteran's Day - I really like it. And, unlike the "whatever" in October, there is time to take this to the congressional districts. Our elected officials know this is morally reprehensible, and yet they still sit on their hands. Time to ratchet up the pressure a bit, and enlist our straight allies in the fight for repeal. They're with us, but where are the Dems?

Missing in Action.