Yesterday I joined six servicemembers in front of the White House to call on President Obama to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), the Clinton-era policy that bans lesbians and gays from military service. These six servicemembers - including one transgender vet, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen - peacefully chained themselves to the White House and spent last night in jail. Let's especially honor Autumn for her heightened risk as a trans woman being arrested - when repealing DADT won't even end discrimination based on gender identity.
This protest took place just one day after GetEQUAL activists disrupted President Obama at a fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer in LA. They interrupted his speech, demanding the immediate repeal of DADT and full equality for the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. They were escorted out of the event without incident.
The crowd gathered in LA was fickle - quick to applaud and echo the urgency expressed by the activists, and just as quick to applaud the President's admonishment that we should focus our efforts instead on legislators who oppose us. But I remember President Obama making a commitment to repeal DADT during his State of the Union Address earlier this year. When he made that commitment, he placed responsibility - and accountability - squarely on his own shoulders.
I have never been prouder to cast my ballot than when I voted for President Obama in 2008 - the same day I voted No on 8 in California, and spent the night grieving our rights being stripped away instead of celebrating the historic election of the first President I've ever believed in. While I still hope we will find justice under his Administration, my optimism diminishes with each passing day that we remain unequal. But I still believe in him, which is precisely why I'm ratcheting up the pressure.
There's a standalone bill out there in the world right now that would repeal DADT. President Obama and other leaders think this proves they are working on the issue. But they know there's neither political will nor incentive to pass that bill. Without a doubt, it will fail.
There is, however, another way. We could repeal DADT the same way that Clinton first allowed it to become the law of the land: attach the repeal language to the Defense Authorization Bill (DAB). There is both will and incentive to pass the DAB, and whip counts show that the DADT repeal will be successful if attached.
President Obama knows that repealing DADT through the DAB is the one and only way to ensure success this year, but he refuses to take that step. So when he tells us to focus on our opposition, he's not being real with us. He made the commitment, he knows the strategy that will work, and he's following a doomed strategy instead. After we lose, he'll probably go on to blame us for our own loss. Doesn't this story sound familiar?
With every bone in my body, I want to see DADT repealed this year. I want justice for our servicemembers who are targeted and harassed. I don't want young, poor queer folks to have to make a choice between economic opportunity and living honestly. I want the repeal of DADT to be a gateway to other steps toward equality - employment protections, fairness in immigration, and marriage equality, to name a few. And I want this to happen before the mid-term elections, when a narrow window will close, and our hope for justice disappears for at least six more years.
If you feel the same way, then listen to my words. We have ONE target, and ONE demand:
President Obama, attach the repeal of DADT to this year's DAB.
This moment is urgent. We will only be heard if we are loud and disruptive and we don't back down. Join us in making the call at http://GetEQUAL.org/GetDADT.