Anyone who was paying attention in 1993 knows what a devastating setback the community suffered with the codification of the military’s ban on gays. The community itself had asked the newly elected Democratic President, Bill Clinton, to end the military’s long-standing policy banning gays from service.
But instead, Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Georgia, orchestrated a parade of testimony and innuendo to suggest that the mere presence of gays would violate the “sexual privacy” of heterosexual servicemembers.
One female Naval petty officer testified that, “You are asking me to sleep and shower with homosexuals. You are asking me to expose my sexuality …”
Not surprisingly, 56 percent of the public opposed allowing “homosexuals” to serve “openly” in the military in 1993.
In December 2010, only 21 percent of Americans felt that way. And Democratic President Barack Obama, using a strategy of sticks and carrots that sometimes angered the LGBT community, helped drive through passage of a bill that will eventually lead to a dismantling of the ban.
What does that say about 2011?
Given the shaky economy, high unemployment, and intense partisan divide in Congress, there is little likelihood the Obama administration will take on another piece of pro-LGBT civil rights legislation in 2011.
The presidential election campaign of 2012 begins in earnest now and President Obama must tend to a wide variety of constituencies, as well as Middle America in general.
But he has shown — even before repeal of DADT — that his administration is willing to use its power to adopt more LGBT friendly regulations and policies that will advance the LGBT civil rights ball down the field.
And that is likely to be where the action will be, for the Obama administration, in 2011.
— Lisa Keen
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.