Gay Democrats pressure Obama to end ban military ban
Gay Democrats are using their wallets to pressure President Obama, while liberal groups are asking him to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a national security issue.
Several top donors have boycotted Democratic National Committee fundraisers and promised the party would feel the financial pain.
Despite pressure from Democrats and liberal groups, the administration has swatted down calls for Mr. Obama to exert executive authority and halt discharges happening at a rapid clip under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military.
The fundraising pressure started with frustration over the Obama administration’s Justice Department defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a legal brief.
Mr. Obama has said he wants to repeal the act. But the language in the brief — comparing samesex marriage to incest, for example — has been labeled by many as indefensible and offensive, and wealthy gay activists are warning they will keep withholding money.
“Unfortunately, I will see everything that the Obama administration does for LGBT Americans through the lens of the DOMA brief,” Stampp Corbin, a San Diego city commissioner and former co-chairman of the Obama campaign’s LGBT Leadership Council, wrote on his blog. “Mr. President, [. . . ] [y]ou better get LGBT affirming legislation moving quickly or the coffers of the LGBT community will be slammed shut on the fingers of your administration and the DNC.”
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he was not aware of internal discussions involving the language in the Justice Department brief and that he did not know whether the language was cleared by Mr. Obama, but he has said the Justice Department is required to argue in favor of government laws.
As the gay rights efforts increase in size and scope, the White House seems to be responding. Mr. Obama will speak to gays and lesbians June 29 and face questions about the next steps he’s promised following the extension of some benefits to gay federal workers.
Among those steps may be including gay couples in the 2010 census, but members of Congress and activists want Mr. Obama to go further with either an executive order on the military ban or telling the Pentagon to stop investigating reports of gay service members.
Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress said it’s unacceptable that 265 people have been discharged under the ban since Mr. Obama took office in January. “Readiness is going to suffer and people’s lives could get lost,” he said.
Recently, 77 members of Congress — 76 Democrats and one Florida Republican — wrote to Mr. Obama, saying they “stand ready” to assist him with the re- peal, calling the 1990s-era law “misguided, unjust and flat-out discriminatory.”
Mr. Gibbs repeatedly said on June 25 that Mr. Obama believes “the only and best way to do this is through a durable comprehensive legislative process,” meaning the duty falls to Congress. Already, 149 lawmakers already have co-sponsored a bill to end the ban on gay troops.
The White House won’t say when the repeal might become reality, but aides say the president remains committed to repealing the military ban and DOMA and would sign bills repealing each.
“Anybody who works in Washington who tells you a specific timeline is kidding you because a timeline is when you get 218 votes in the House of Representatives and 60 votes in the Senate,” said John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management and the highest-ranking openly gay member of the administration. “That’s the rules of the road.”
They’re not asking, they’re telling: President Obama faces questions about the next steps he’ll take to expand gay rights.