Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Equality Now, Dammit!

What does it say about this country when Lady GaGa has more conviction than nearly half of the United States Senate?

Not to take anything away from the pop megastar, who has been a much fiercer advocate for LGBT rights than President Obama; Lady GaGa's constant pressure on Congress to repeal the discriminatory military policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- in particular the rally she attended in Maine on Monday -- was designed to lead the Senate to pass the Defense Authorization Bill ... of which the DADT repeal was a part.

But the GOP -- aided by Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) -- filibustered the entire bill on Tuesday (the first time such a thing has happened), solely so the DADT repeal did not have a chance to come up for a vote.

That's right; the pro-war conservatives blocked a defense budget simply to stick it to homosexuals.

I'm usually hesitant to blame President Obama for the fecklessness of Congress -- especially the Senate. Due in large part to the separation of powers as outlined in the U.S. Constitution, there's not much the president can do without legislation passing through Congress -- and no amount of hand-wringing or persuasion would get some of today's Congressmen to vote in the interest of the people. To a large extent, President Obama can't be blamed for that.

But in this instance, it falls at his feet. President Obama has called himself a fierce advocate for LGBT rights -- even as his Justice Department defends the Defense of Marriage Act and continues to throw dedicated men and women out of the military when they're outed.

Not very advocate-y, is it?

The House of Representatives has already passed a repeal of DADT, pending a Pentagon review of the policy that is slated to wrap up by December. The language in the Senate's Defense Authorization Bill would've done the same thing. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have both spoken out in favor of repeal.

The judicial branch has even ruled DADT unconstitutional. So why are we still applying the policy?

There are a few options going forward; the repeal can be brought up for a vote in the Senate again, likely after the midterm elections. Considering the bleak prospects for Democrats come Nov. 2, though, that's not a likely prospect.

President Obama can, and should, sign an executive order immediately ceasing enforcement of the policy, until such a time that Congress passes the repeal. DADT is not a policy drafted by the military; it is a law passed by Congress during the Clinton Administration, and it must ultimately be taken off the books the same way it was enacted.

President Truman signed an executive order in 1948 halting racial discrimination in the military. He didn't wait for a Pentagon review, he didn't take into account how the soldiers on the ground would feel; he did what was right and made sure that full equality applied to all of this country's soldiers.

President Obama needs to do the same. If the Senate won't do the right thing, then the White House must.

Frankly, any soldier so bothered by the prospect of a homosexual soldier that their performance would be affected has no business defending this nation anyway. As Lady GaGa said on Monday, maybe the prejudiced soldier should be sent home instead of the gay soldier. Do we really want to be defended by a bunch of bigots?

No one in this country can claim that we are a nation of equality -- at least, not with a straight face -- when we have such policies as DADT and DOMA on the books. The opposition will always frame this as an issue of morality and religious superiority, when in fact this is a matter of equality and rights for all -- constitutional protections that are the birthright of everyone in this country and are not up for debate or a vote.

Everyone in this country -- gay or straight, Christian or atheist, Democrat or Republican -- has the same rights and privileges, and laws such as DADT fly in the face of the very core of our country. How can we trumpet our land as one of equality when we have such blatantly discriminatory laws on the books? How can we preach equality when we kick out honorable men and women from the military when we find out they're gay? How are we equal when one couple can marry but another cannot?

DOMA and DADT are unconstitutional; plain and simple. The GOP loves to scream about "Big Government," when in reality, these discriminatory policies they champion are the very definition of the "Big Government" they claim to despise.

Lady GaGa and most of the American people get that. Why is it the people who can actually vote this archaic law out of existence don't?


  1. Fortunately the courts have given Obama a way around congress in this issue. Since a federal judge has already ruled the law unconstitutional all the administration has to do is not appeal (note: it is traditional for the justice department to appeal in defense of passed law but not required). If they choose not to then the law is overturned and the cowards in the senate can't stand in its way.

  2. Here's hoping that's what actually happens.