Andrew Sullivan has a great piece on The Atlantic about how Obama, just like the presidents who have preceded him, has failed to take more proactive steps in furthering civil rights for the LGBTQ community. Not only is there inaction, but there is also a lot of silence. Writing a note to Lt. Sandy Tsao, discharged for being openly gay, saying that he is “committed to changing our current policy” is insufficient. (She was still discharged and where are we with repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?)
Sullivan writes (Bold emphasis mine):
And it’s tedious to whine and jump up and down and complain when a wand isn’t waved and everything is made right by the first candidate who really seemed to get it, who was even able to address black church congregations about homophobia. And obviously patience is necessary; and legislative work takes time; and there are real challenges on so many fronts, especially the economy and the legacy of war crimes and the permanently restive Iraqi and Afghan regions we are constantly in the process of liberating from themselves. No one expects a president to be grappling with all this early on, or, God help us, actually leading on civil rights. That’s our job, not his.
But I have a sickeningly familiar feeling in my stomach, and the feeling deepens with every interaction with the Obama team on these issues. They want them to go away. They want us to go away.
Here we are, in the summer of 2009, with gay servicemembers still being fired for the fact of their orientation. Here we are, with marriage rights spreading through the country and world and a president who cannot bring himself even to acknowledge these breakthroughs in civil rights, and having no plan in any distant future to do anything about it at a federal level. Here I am, facing a looming deadline to be forced to leave my American husband for good, and relocate abroad because the HIV travel and immigration ban remains in force and I have slowly run out of options (unlike most non-Americans with HIV who have no options at all).
And what is Obama doing about any of these things? What is he even intending at some point to do about these things? So far as I can read the administration, the answer is: nada. We’re firing Arab linguists? So sorry. We won’t recognize in any way a tiny minority of legally married couples in several states because they’re, ugh, gay? We had no idea. There’s a ban on HIV-positive tourists and immigrants? Really? Thanks for letting us know. Would you like to join Joe Solmonese and John Berry for cocktails? The inside of the White House is fabulous these days.
The Obama Administration is certainly a welcome and much needed relief and improvement from the Bush Administration. Yet the Obama Administration has made it clear that we need to “be patient” and we cannot expect any immediate support, action or committal answers from the White House with regard to DADT and LGBTQ rights. Contrary to what’s been said, repealing DADT would not be that difficult.
The Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara released a report last week, “How to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell': A Roadmap of Political, Legal, Regulatory, and Organizational Steps to Equal Treatment”, that presents a blueprint on how President Obama can end the unjust and discriminatory discharge of LGBTQ service members in the military without Congress enacting a law first. Read the full report, or read a good summary and analysis here.