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November 26, 2008

Is 2010 Too Late to Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

Under the Bush administration, record numbers of gay and lesbian service members have been discharged due to their sexual identity, even those in crucial jobs such as translating Arabic into English. Considering the discrimination inherent to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the pressing military and intelligence needs of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, shouldn't DADT be quickly repealed by the Obama administration?

That's Andrew Sullivan's position, and I'd certainly like to believe that an immediate DADT repeal would be politically feasible. Sure, the issue was a disaster for Bill Clinton in 1993, but today's America is quite different when it comes to acceptance of homosexuality; according to one poll, 75 percent of Americans now support the rights of gays to serve in the military.

Yet tackling the issue in the midst of two wars will be delicate, and there are conflicting reports on whether the Obama team plans on delaying the repeal of DADT until 2010, as the Washington Times reported last week. Yesterday the Washington Blade, a gay and lesbian paper, reported that the transition team was downplaying the Washington Times piece and saying no decision will be made on DADT until a full defense team is in place. But even Rep. Barney Frank, who is gay, is urging caution, telling the Blade that it would be wiser to put off dealing with DADT until after the troops return from Iraq.

That may be pragmatic, but it'll be little comfort to the LGBT troops risking their lives in the field right now. Just a reminder of the many tensions that are sure to play out between the incoming administration and various progressive interest groups.

cross-posted at TAPPED

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Comments

Of course it should wait! DADT is something that can be ordered changed at any time. Doing it at the start of the administration would just rile middle America up at a time when Obama will be spending political capital to get universal health care and other reforms through. OK it is not 1993, but it hasn't been THAT long. Lets at least get 2010, and the big ticket items behind us before we fire the first shot in another round of culture wars.

First, DADT is law, passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton. it is not reversible by presidential order.

So, here we go again. Gays should just wait until "the time is right." But the time will never be "right." The focus of anti-gay activity is now on marriage -- most people (even medium-duty homophobes) are happy enough to let gays have all the rights of citizenship, including marriage, as long as we are prohibited from actually getting legally married.

Allowing gays to serve (openly) in the military won't prove to be much of a political problem. So there's no reason to wait -- it should be introduced, there can be a few pro forma hearings, and then just do it, once and for all.

Abolishing DADT has 75% support. For context, about 25% of Americans said on January 1, 2008 that this would be the year of Jesus's second coming. If 75% of Americans agree on something, it's as close to consensus as this ridiculous country will ever come. So what's the problem? How can this possibly be a difficult issue? When 75% of America believes something but you still hold back, you have to wonder whether the issue is with America or with you.

This is the same tired line gay people have been hearing for years. "Yes, you should have equal rights, but just wait a few years. Don't rock the boat now." We are going to transition seamlessly from "don't rock the boat during Obama's honeymoon phase" to "don't rock the boat immediately before Obama's reelection." Two years after that, it'll be "don't rock the boat when his second term is still getting off the ground," and then "don't rock the boat before the big 2016 Presidential election!" We'll have spent another 10% of our lives as second-class citizens, and we'll be no closer to equality than we are right now.

If Obama doesn't do something substantial for gay people by 2012, he loses my vote. Period. I've never voted for a Republican, but that'll be when I start. This term is the test. If he won't do anything to fight for basic, obvious, morally necessary equality while his power is at its apex, then he never will, and I don't support him. And for anyone who does, I challenge you to tell me you'd feel the same way if the issue were blacks being forbidden from marrying and serving in the military, or Jews. Try to say it and see how it feels.

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