By Lisa Keen
It’s a little like President Obama’s controversy last month over whether he bowed to a Saudi king or just “bent over” unusually far to shake his hand. But the latest controversy involves whether the White House intentionally removed pro-gay language from its Web site in order to re-couch the president’s intentions on gays in the military.
The Obama White House included the president’s commitment to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell when it first booted up its own version of http://www.whitehouse.gov after the inauguration. Many gay activists were pleasantly surprised at that time, in January, to see such a prominent inclusion of LGBT issues. But blogger Joe Jervis of http://JoeMyGod.com discovered last week that the LGBT information had been pared back significantly and spread the word. Soon thereafter, the Web site put back some of the information it had cut. But, more troubling, noticed blogger John Aravosis at http://AmericaBlog.com the language on the DADT policy had gone from stating President Obama’s commitment to “repealing” the policy to saying the President “supports changing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security.”
For a president who clearly chooses his words very carefully, the edit job prompted red flags in many quarters.
Aravosis said many people he talked to saw that as a “backward step” on the president’s promise. Kevin Nix, communications director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said that group was “confused” about the change.
“Words matter,” wrote Nix on the group’s blog, “and these two words (‘repealing’ and ‘changing’) on this particular subject have dramatically different implications for gay and lesbian servicemembers.”
Nix said SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis contacted the White House about the change but got the “standard e-mailed response about the site being revamped.”
“If the White House is still in favor of ‘repealing’ Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, albeit in a ‘sensible way’ – and we’re happy to take them at their word – then say just that,” said Aravois. “Change ‘change’ to ‘repeal’ and be done with it.”
White House spokesman Shin Inouye told this reporter that the administration was simply updating its Web site and that the president is still committed to repealing the policy. And, as of May 4, the Web site was back to saying “repeal,” instead of change.
To be exact, it says the president “supports repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way.” “Like any Web site, there’s periodic changes,” said Inouye. The White House “did overhaul” its Web site – every page, not just the page on Civil Rights, he said.
“But the president hasn’t changed his position at all” on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, said Inouye, “and any suggestions otherwise are just wrong.”