Kerry Eleveld @ The Advocate: Gates, Obama deliver advances after bizarre week

Posted on 25 Oct 2010 at 6:45am

In a nutshell, it looks like the Obama administration, specifically the President and Sec Def Robert Gates were trying to score some points with the LGBT community after a pretty embarrassing week on the PR front (see Valerie Jarrett’s implosion on CNN).

President Obama released Thursday evening his contribution to LGBT activist Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, video messages intended to lend hope and perspective to queer youth who may feel alienated, disheartened or even desperate.

…But until this week, the president seemed mostly oblivious to the present-day equality movement staring him in the face – unaware that he and his administration are standing as an impediment to freedom’s progress through their inaction on so many fronts.

However, his video was a signal that some realization seems to have crept in based on the shocking and inescapable spate of queer tragedies – ranging from heart wrenching suicides to horrific acts of violence – that preceded a blistering couple of weeks for the administration.

And if you kept up with your PHB reading this week, DADT news was fast and furious, and the WH was losing the battle the stay ahead of the criticism.

So where the politicians have failed, the courts are now picking up the slack. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has been forced to dole out a number of convoluted answers about DADT over the past several weeks, but he has been crystal clear about the following: “The courts have demonstrated that the time is ticking on the policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

…Whatever they are planning for now, it appears doubtful they spent much time seriously prepping for the headache that Judge Virginia Phillips visited upon them last week. In fact, it took them two days to circulate new orders regarding the injunction and yet another day to redirect recruiters.

Given the situation’s volatility, Thursday of this week, Secretary Gates designated just three people – the secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force – who have the authority to finalize discharges. The memo from Gates was nothing short of an acknowledgment that even DOD had finally lost control of the fate of this misbegotten policy.

As Blender Paul Barwick noted, this means DADT discharges have effectively been stopped.

To me this reads as if we have accomplished the first step that we have asked for.

Admittedly it has been several decades since I served in the Army, but I suspect that one thing has not changed.  No low or middle level commander is going to want her or his name on a request that is guaranteed to not only be read by the secretary of their branch of the service, but also personally perused by the Under Secretary of Defense. By saying that he wants to hear about each and every case, the Secretary of Defense is saying in essence that he doesn’t want to hear about any case.  In effect the discharges have been stopped.

Why the Secretary of Defense felt the need to do this now will have to be explained by someone more knowledgeable than I.  One might wonder if the Commander is Chief finally caught sight of a chart listing the chain-of-command in the military?  Hard to say.

This is a big deal.  My heartfelt thanks to each and every person who has raised their voice, scrawled “No more donations until DADT is repealed, lobbied their congress person, chained themself to a fence or any of the other multitude of actions that we as a community have used to wipe this shameful law from the books.  Draw strength from this.  We are being heard, and the forces of bigotry are being forced to slither back under the rocks from which they came.

It’s a victory of sorts, but Gates has just started a trickle out of dam that is about to burst. So he wants gays and lesbians not to be discharged, but they cannot still cannot come out of the closet safely; they are still without any benefits that would give them rights equivalent to their straight counterparts (see: DOMA) and it looks like an attempt to get the wider public to believe that DADT is dead, when there are myriad issues connected to the policy that are unrelated to discharges. What it indicates is that there is little confidence that the Senate is going to pass repeal in the Def Auth bill in the lame duck session.

Cinderella crumbs again…wholly dependent on a commander who is not willing to send a discharge up the military food chain. Looking at the glass half full, as Paul has, it means the pressure on this administration from the outside DOES have an impact. And that’s why the pressure to stop any meme that DADT is all but dead must be countered, and to stress these moves are coming down the pike because of the courts, not lobbying on the Hill.

Further reading: The DADT Appeal and the District Court’s Worldwide Injunction by Tobias Barrington Wolff
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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