Note from Bil:Bilerico Project is participating in a blogswarm today with Joe Sudbay and John Aravosis from AMERICAblog, Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend, Michelangelo Signorile from Sirius OutQ & the Gist, Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos, Andy Towle from Towleroad, Joe Jervis from Joe.My.God, Taylor Marsh, and Dan Savage of Slog. We're asking our readers to contact HRC and urge them to publicly demand that Obama repeal DADT this year. Contact info at the end of Phil's post.
When I blog about federal bills, I'm usually talking about ENDA - I still think this is our number one priority on the Hill - but there's another big priority that we need to move on now. We need a full repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. My views on our current aggressive and misguided wars aside, the ban on gays serving openly in our military is one of the most disgusting and obvious examples of institutionalized homophobia we have in America. Its a symbol of everything wrong in our society when it comes to acceptance of gays and lesbians. We must have a full repeal this year.
Any effort to repeal it is about to get swept under the rug, unless HRC, our largest organization, steps up and demands the White House to take some leadership.
Unlike many of my fellow bloggers, I don't go after HRC very often. I'll be the first to say HRC has made some dumb-ass moves in the past, but I find it quite lazy to make them out to be monsters, the way most of the gay bloggosphere tends to do.
I have a confession to make. I'm a member of HRC. Not only am I a member, I sat on the Michigan Steering Committee for nearly five years. I was Membership and Community Events chair. I signed up thousands of new HRC members during my time. I still have a box of stickers in my closet. Oh, me and HRC are like *this.* Sometimes.
They've made some major mistakes that I wouldn't begin to defend them for. I would only say that all of our other big national organizations have got portions of our community's blood boiling at times. And guess what? I give money to them too.
Our federal fight is going to require that we have some visibility up on the Hill, and that we've established some credible national organizations with leaders who can maintain some sustained contact with our lawmakers to help move them on those issues we hold dear. Those are: comprehensive immigration reform that does not leave us out, LGBT-inclusive health care reform, gender identity and sexual orientation employment/housing/public accommodation non-discrimination protections, relationship recognition and partnership benefits and obligations, as well as immediately ending discrimination in the military. Folks, we can't do it without GLAAD, the Task Force and HRC, I don't care what your tinfoil hat tells you.
Then again, we may not be able to do it with them either. Not if our national organizations - particularly HRC - communicates with the White House in a whimper instead of a roar.
Mouthpiece of the Movement
Straight lawmakers on the Hill see HRC as the mouthpiece of our movement, for better or for worse. If Bil Browning were to call up the White House and try to speak to the President, anyone who would be in a position to answer the phone would be asking "Who are you?" If HRC President Joe Solmonese calls up the White House, chances are there are plenty of people inside that will take his call. If Joe called up any Democratic lawmaker, nine times out of ten if he's not going to be able to get them to take the call a staffer will be relaying the message directly.
That's because HRC has clout; and that political capital is its massive membership base of progressive and moderate voters that the Democratic National Committee would absolutely love to get their hands on. HRC has a bad habit, however, of squirreling away that political capital for... well, we're not really sure yet. In January of 2009 we suddenly had total control in both houses, and a progressive Democratic executive branch with a Commander in Chief who had pledged to fight for our issues. What was HRC's reaction?
If our President does not take lead on repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year, he's going to leave behind a legacy of disappointment on LGBT rights. The only organization that can truly put the pressure on is HRC.
The Thing About Clout
The thing about clout is that its not a very standard currency. A clout savings account does not accrue interest. In fact, when you don't use your political clout you lose your political clout. If we watch the great progressive political heavyweights of our last century - Ted Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt, even Bill Clinton - we see people who made more political capital by spending what they had. By making good on their promises and shoring up confidence in their competence and commitment, these good folks gained influence every time they took a stand.
Why shouldn't HRC send a strongly worded blast to its members about contacting the White House about a full and immediate DADT repeal? Every other major progressive organization does it. Yet the largest LGBT organization rarely ever blasts Democratic leadership. Time to spend that capital.
I realize I'm saying this from far outside of the Beltway, and that I'm no insider and I might "not know how it works." I do know how it should work, and how most Americans wish it would work, and I see no problem with demanding such. Maybe if all of us progressives demanded that our lawmakers make good, the way that conservatives do, we'd see more accomplished when we have the reins.
There have been media reports since the President mentioned "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in his State of the Union speech, that unnamed sources in the White House are saying repeal "could take years." Why? America is ready now, The military is ready now. Hell, even Colin Powell and Dick Cheney are ready now. Why can't it be done this year?
Meanwhile patriotic people like Arab linguist Lt. Dan Choi, who just want to serve their country, continue to be recommended for discharge. Because nobody wants to risk the next election or access to the next high-level meeting.
What If, Just One Time, HRC Stood Up?
I wish Rep. Alan Grayson was in charge of communications over at HRC. There's a guy unafraid to spend his political capital. Call him what you want. Call him a fame-hound. He's not making many friends with his theatrics. What he is truly doing is standing up for what he believes in, and doing whatever he can - even risking his reelection - to try to get the job done while he has the office.
Could you imagine what HRC's statement to the President on White House DADT foot-dragging would be like if Grayson wrote it?
The President doesn't give a crap if we send our troops into battle completely ill-equipped, understaffed, and unprepared. At least, that's what it seems as his administration continues to discharge capable and willing soldiers under the wholly inhumane policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The White House has the opportunity to take action now and end the insane practice of firing American heroes for who they love. The Pentagon can put a moratorium on all discharges under the policy today. The President can include a complete repeal of the ban in the next Defense Department budget that he sends to Congress. Our Commander In Chief can put pressure on Congress every day to move a full repeal of the ban through immediately. The White House can become the fierce advocate its always promised (but failed) to be by putting this issue front and center in the public eye.
The White House can finally get off its keister and allow us to join every other major NATO force - especially those who we've been fighting along-side in Iraq and Afghanistan - and fully integrate the military with all of our capable and eager heroes. The White House can stop damaging unit cohesion by ending the senseless loss of life due to preventable attacks that could have been stopped if not for the discharge of the Arab linguist who just happened to be in love with someone of the same sex. The White House can stop breaking up these military families that bands of brothers form and trust that our men and women who serve in the military truly have the integrity to serve alongside other soldiers that have different views.
In short, the White House can stop dragging its feet, and the President can actually - for once - act like a leader on LGBT issues and push something he's been promising long before our organization was ever duped into endorsing him.
We call on the President to make the full and immediate repeal of the military gay ban one of his top priorities and daily preoccupations today.
All of Us at the Human Rights Campaign Who Just Finally Got Some Guts
Do you agree?
Then call HRC's front desk and let them know you want them to pressure Obama take the lead to end DADT this year.