Gay Democrats pres­sure Obama to end ban mil­i­tary ban

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CHRISTINA BEL­LAN­TONI

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.

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