by Bob Roehr
A group of advocates for repeal of the antigay military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) is turning its fire on gay rights groups based in Washington, DC for enabling the go slow approach toward repeal by the Obama administration.
“A network of gay and gay-friendly activists, journalists and politicos worked to derail the possibility of the suspension of the ban,” asserted the report from the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California Santa Barbara, released on July 28.
“Self Inflicted Wound: How and Why Gays Give the White House a Free Pass on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was written by center director Aaron Belkin.
“Whether due to choice (we have chosen not to push, so as not to offend the administration) or capacity (we lack the power to push in a meaningful way), the bottom line is that the White House has for the most part had a free pass on our issues,” he wrote.
Belkin said in May, the President has the authority under legal provisions known as “stop loss,” to halt all discharges under DADT while the process to repeal the law is underway.
But the Obama administration has not embraced that authority, arguing that the policy was enacted into law and should be repealed. Democratic members of Congress largely have agreed with the President and the gay groups have had little choice but to go along.
“The two-part strategy was beginning to unlock the stalemate in Washington that had stalled progress” on DADT. “Yet as opponents of the two-part strategy gained traction, media interest has waned and pressure on the White House has softened,” Belkin argues. He hopes to re-ignite that pressure.
Belkin noted that over the last two elections, as the Democrats gained and built their control of the House, a swing of 55 seats, legislation repealing DADT gained only 43 additional sponsors. And a bill has never been introduced in the Senate.
“The problem is that conservative Democrats and Republicans stand in the way of repeal, and that these conservatives are not vulnerable to pressure from our community, which in general, does not have the money or the votes to trump the conservative base to which these politicians tend to answer,” Belkin wrote in the report.
He concluded that President Obama is the pressure point where effort must be focused.
Kevin Nix, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) told Politico the ultimate goal is to end DADT and replace it with a nondiscriminatory one that allows gays to serve openly. That means repealing the law.
The report was released a day after the first stop on the “Voices of Honor: A Generation Under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell'” tour to build grassroots support for repeal. The Philadelphia event featured congressional champion, Iraq war vet Rep. Patrick Murphy, and gay vets who served under the policy. The major gay and military groups seeking repeal are backing the tour.