Pam Spaulding

Palm Center's Nathaniel Frank: DADT repeal in 'grave peril'; SLDN endorses the blog swarm

Filed By Pam Spaulding | February 17, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Armed Service Committee, blogswarm, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, gays in the military, Nathaniel Frank, Palm Center, SLDN

Whoa, two bits of big news. An essay at Huff Post by Nathaniel Frank (the author of, Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America) is a serious endorsement of yesterday's blog swarm, as is the news that Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) also weighs in on the effort.

Yet despite the military's move to relax and soon do away with "don't ask, don't tell," repeal in Congress is in grave peril. This is so even though the much-vaunted super-majority in the senate is not necessary to repeal the current policy. As Sen. Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee explained to his colleague, Sen. Joe Lieberman, an amendment to repeal the policy can be added to the must-pass Defense Authorization bill, which would turn the tables on the "no-to-everything" Republicans: the amendment would require a supermajority not to pass, but to remove, meaning that in order to keep the ban in place, the GOP would have to block the entire Pentagon spending bill, publicly undercutting the military.

And it's not just a misguided fantasy of a few radical gay and ally bloggers that HRC needs to use its influence and access to push the administration and Congress to act.

It's also not helping that the gay community has too often given the President a pass on leading on this issue. Yes, Congress has to pass repeal to get this law off the books, but that process should begin with Obama telling the Pentagon to put repeal in the Authorization bill. And for that to happen, gay groups will need to let the White House know that the status quo is not acceptable. Bloggers this week called for the President to take the lead, but also focused their attention on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the most powerful gay rights group in the world, which has been accused of championing repeal publicly, while privately assuring the White House that it can continue to go slow. Some feel that HRC would rather fundraise for several years on the illusion of momentum than actually help to achieve repeal. If HRC wants to disabuse the community of that suspicion, it will need to ensure that its prized access to Washington power is used to have a real impact, rather than to enjoy that access for its own sake. One reasonable option would be to publicly tell the President that it will not endorse him for re-election if he does not secure repeal in his first term, a promise that Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he believed the President would keep.

The problem is that professed proponents of repeal keep muttering that we will get repeal this year, without saying how. "There is a clear path to repeal," said an HRC spokesman this week, "and that's the one we're on." Many of us would like to know what that path is if it does not include demanding the President put it in the base bill. Because legislative repeal will only become harder after the 2010 midterm elections.

And as I said above, SLDN must know repeal is in peril. Kevin Nix at the organization's blog, Frontlines, noting that Congress can repeal while the DOD conducts its implementation study.

We join the blog swarm's call for DADT repeal this year. The best way to erase the law from the books in 2010 is for the Obama Administration to include repeal in the defense authorization bill and then for Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to also include repeal of the law in the defense bill he reports out of his committee. Find out what you can do here.

As we have noted before, Congress must repeal DADT this year while the Department of Defense conducts its study. Both can and should happen concurrently. DoD's study Working Group should not hold up legislative repeal this year, since the study Working Group is not looking at if the law should be repealed but how.

We agree with Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) when he said earlier this month, "A study should not unduly delay taking our last steps toward final action." Congress must go ahead and do its part to dismantle the law now through the defense authorization bill, and the White House must be pushing that too.

* DADT blog swarm: contact HRC to publicly demand the President to take the lead on repeal in 2010
* Coverage of today's HRC/DADT blog swarm
* Center for American Progress poll: a stable majority supports ending DADT

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"And it's not just a misguided fantasy of a few radical gay and ally bloggers that HRC needs to use its influence and access to push the administration and Congress to act."

What influence?

Good Morning Andrew,

The HRC still wields considerable influence addressing some issues in the Congress and with policy makers in the Administration.

More so because HRC is a "name-brand" lobbyist as its is huge,[membership] has a war chest to contribute to political campaigns.

Here is the problem Andrew. On Monday Indiana Senator Evan Bayh Stated: "There's too much brain-dead partisanship" in Congress. Then he announced that he was not going to stand for another term. [ I'll note that Bil-The Project's Editor-In-Chief, in an e-mail to me, indicated that effectually his not doing so would have little impact on Indiana as apparently Bayh has not been an effective voice for his state's LGBT community.] However, the Senator's comments reflect the root problem in this Congress and to be honest, Washington in general.

The Senator continued with: " "There's just too much brain-dead partisanship, tactical maneuvering for short-term political advantage rather than focusing on the greater good, and also just strident ideology," the Democratic senator said. "The extremes of both parties have to be willing to accept compromises from time to time to make some progress because some progress for the American people is better than nothing, and all too often recently, we've been getting nothing," he said.

With Congress hopelessly stalled, the Senator said that it was his opinion it was going to be up to the American people to intercede and vote out those lawmakers who are focused solely on politics and partisanship.

"The people who are just rigidly ideological, unwilling to accept practical solutions somewhere in the middle, vote them out, and then change the rules so that the sensible people who remain can actually get the job done," Bayh said. "The president I know is desperately trying to accomplish this. Congress needs to listen and the American people need to help with this process."

The American political process is locked up in rampant petty politics that for the first time in nearly thirty years has created an atmosphere of impasse that even the lobbyists are prevented from effective influencing of legislative efforts.

Andrew? I am NOT in defence of this fact merely pointing it out. DADT, DOMA, and finally the VERY important ENDA are critical to the LGBT community legislation stymied by the situation that Senator Bayh has described.

Thus Andrew the HRC is finding itself in the same boat as those in the opposition camp.


Brody Levesque

I would suggest that lobbying has had a huge impact on Congress, but Anti-LGBT issues are not negotiable. They never have been. Senators minds about LGBT issues are immutable.

Therefore, it is not accurate to suggest that HRC has anymore influence than you or me. They have a well-known logo and some "access," but that is not the same as influence.

I appreciate your comment Brody.