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Does Obama care as much about the rights of Gays as he does those of Terrorists?

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by basso, Jan 25, 2010.

  1. basso

    basso Contributing Member
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    Ask Obama About Don't Ask, Don't Tell

    [rquoter]Gay voters are growing impatient for equality.
    By RICHARD SOCARIDES

    As a candidate for president, Barack Obama told the country's leading gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, "America is ready to get rid of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. All that is required is leadership." Now he is about to decide whether he will make good on his promise to end what he called a "policy of discrimination."

    His decision will come soon because Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen are set to testify at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the policy—the first of its kind since the law was enacted in 1993.

    Most administration observers who follow this closely believe that the Pentagon has already signed off on supporting an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell once the White House decides the timing is right. But Messrs. Gates and Mullen have yet to say so publicly. Their upcoming testimony is the result of pressure from New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, who last year called for legislation that would have placed a moratorium on gay military discharges.

    Many question why the White House avoided dealing with Don't Ask, Don't Tell last year, when Democrats had big majorities in Congress and polls showed that a majority of Americans favor changing the policy. A Quinnipiac poll in April, for example, found that 56% of Americans support repealing the policy.

    A big part of the reason why the White House hesitated is fear of a backlash similar to the one suffered by President Bill Clinton in 1993 when he tried to allow gays to serve openly in the military. Recently we saw the potential beginning of an antigay fear campaign—much like the one in 1993 when then Sen. Sam Nunn (D., Ga.) was leading the charge—in the form of a leaked memo from a legal adviser to Mr. Mullen. The legal adviser opined that "now is not the time" to lift the ban because of "the importance of winning the wars we are in." Also, the New York Times reported recently that the Pentagon had begun considering "the practical implications of a repeal—for example, whether it would be necessary to change shower facilities and locker rooms because of privacy concerns."

    Fortunately, these scare tactics are for the most part relics of an older era. People understand that our military needs every talented American it can get, and that excluding gays from the military detracts from our ability to win wars.

    Most people also understand that we are long past the point where our military personnel need to be reminded about appropriate behavior on duty, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Men and women serve side by side today in combat, as do gay and straight service members, without incident.

    If repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell becomes impossible in the shifting congressional dynamic this year (despite bipartisan support), the president has several options that would stop the discharge of gay American soldiers.

    Current law does not require the services to discharge members based on sexual orientation per se. Rather, it looks to certain conduct to create a presumption for discharge. Thus, the Department of Defense has the authority to devise regulations that determine when such prohibited conduct has occurred. Defense could also interpret the Don't Ask, Don't Tell statute more literally (as intended) and refuse to discharge a service member unless he willfully discloses that he is gay, which almost never happens. Finally, Defense could invoke current regulations to retain gay service members in the interest of national security. All are good options.

    What is especially troubling, however, is Mr. Obama's oversensitivity to a dwindling minority of bigots on this issue. Hundreds of military careers have been destroyed on his watch for no valid reason. The country has been deprived of the talents of these service members and has wasted millions of dollars on their training.

    Many wonder when their president will show the same kind of concern for the constitutional rights of gay American service members as he has for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay.
    Many wonder what the administration's willingness to treat gay Americans as second-class citizens says to Uganda and other countries that are considering laws that would subject gays to imprisonment and even death.

    Gay Americans have been among the president's most ardent supporters. Their enthusiasm, and that of their families and friends, could be crucial in this year's elections. The president's action—or inaction—on Don't Ask Don't Tell will be noticed.

    An increasingly frustrated bloc of gay voters—angry over marriage setbacks in California, Maine, New Jersey and New York and emboldened by Ted Olson's and David Boies's high-profile effort to declare unconstitutional laws that prohibit gay marriage—are growing impatient for equality. As Mr. Olson said in federal district court in San Francisco recently, discriminatory laws serve only to "label gay and lesbian persons as different, inferior, unequal and disfavored."

    Mr. Socarides, an attorney, was special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior White House adviser on gay rights from 1997 to 1999.[/rquoter]
     
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  3. Depressio

    Depressio Contributing Member

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