Sunday, December 6, 2009
Gay Members of Congress Say Change Is Close
President Barack Obama has spent nearly the first year of his presidency scratching off or at least attempting to scratch off campaign promise after campaign promise. Most recently, he cemented his promise to pay more attention to the War on Terror in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more troops that way. Some of those promises have been deferred.
Many of those promises have to do with gay issues. President Obama promised during the campaign to wipe out the un-gay-friendly "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and, while having huge majorities in both houses of Congress, he has yet to make good on that promise.
Sure, you can say that Mr. Obama has just been busy or that his priorities have been elsewhere due to an economic situation that seen his approval ratings fall faster than a penny dropped from the Empire State Building. While those things have rightly diverted his attention from more domestic issues, he has largely ignored the so-called gay agenda.
There have been little glimpses of progress. He nominated a gay ambassador. He also signed an Executive Order (due to expire at the end of his term) extending partner benefits to federal government employees in same sex relationships, but still, the biggest example of institutional homophobia in the U.S. remains: Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (DADT)
On the face of it, it seems like perhaps a good policy...for 1994. You're free to be homosexual, but you can't tell anyone about it. The moment that you do or that you are outed...you get discharged. It's all over. It doesn't matter if you're one of the few people that knows Arabic in the military...you're gay, you're gone. That's not what I call the new military. That type of policy has no place in a 21st century America. It's a ridiculous little policy that the world probably laughs at when America turns its back.
Well, that policy among others are hopefully about to change, according to two of the three openly-gay members of Congress. Wisconson Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis, both members of the U.S. House, say in an article by the Associated Press' Lisa Leff that bills to extend health care partner benefits to federal employees in same sex relationships and to end discrimination in the workplace for gay and transgender individuals are on the way in this coming session.
They also say that an end to DADT may be around the corner as well. That could be attached to a military spending bill for next year. The Democrats used a similar tactic to get the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed even drawing a yes vote from Indiana's Richard Lugar in the process.
As for President Obama's part in this, Polis and Baldwin told the Associated Press to put the blame on Congress for being slow to act. I disagree. The bully pulpit of the United States President is unmatched. If President Obama wanted to end DADT, I think it would happen relatively quickly and easily. Then again, nothing he seems to have wanted done has come very quickly and easily. The President seems to have spent a great deal of political capital, and he is in sore need of building it back up. When he rode the wave of good feelings into the Oval Office, he squandered a chance to make a change on DADT.
Hopefully soon, these bills will come up for a vote in Congress and the LGBT community will have something truly great to celebrate on a federal level.