Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pardon me for being skeptical

The big news is there is a compromise in the bill to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell ban on gays serving openly in the military. Obama has been saying it is a high priority yet hasn't done anything to assure its passage. His Secretary of Defense told Congress not to do anything until their study is done at the end of the year and he and various people around him have said some anti-gay things. Yet Dems in Congress want to push ahead, fearing more GOP lawmakers in November will make the repeal harder.

The compromise seems to be a step in the right direction. Congress will repeal the law and leave the repeal of the policy up to the prez., Sec. Defense, and Joint Chiefs. They'll actually do the right thing only if their review shows the repeal won't affect military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting, and retention. The good news: the ban will no longer be legally required. The bad news: that doesn't mean the ban will go away.

Lots of gay lobbying organizations and Dem lawmakers are praising the compromise and will take advantage of it, telling gay voters, "See! Obama has done something substantial for you! Now give us money for the fall election."

The organization Queer Rising is not convinced. They list these objections:

* Eliminates a timeline for repeal.

* Puts the decision into the hands of Sec. Defense and Joint Chiefs (who would have veto power over repeal) who are not elected. We lose power to persuade them.

* Having "no impact" on readiness, unit cohesion, and the rest is subjective and open to interpretation, making it quite possible that repealing the policy never happens. It could be enough for only one potential recruit to say, "I ain't joining if I have to serve with fags." to mean "recruiting will be negatively impacted." Never mind the many (including gays) who currently won't join because they abhor the current discrimination.

* Obama can blame the Joint Chiefs and Sec. Defense if the ban isn't lifted.

* Lawmakers get credit for something they haven't actually done.

* Gay soldiers are currently discharged for a specific reason -- they're gay. Under the new law the reason can be shrouded in secrecy -- there's a lack of "readiness". Commenters think putting the policy back in Pentagon hands gives permission for gay witch-hunts.

Defenders of the compromise say that without it the repeal wouldn't pass. Some who want the ban repealed say they voted for change, not compromise. Others say that black leaders would not have tolerated a bill that only promised repealing Jim Crow. Given Obama's track record with gays and the squeamish (at least) comments coming from military leaders I remain skeptical that this compromise will actually allow gay soldiers to serve openly.

With over 70% of Americans and over 50% of GOP voters in favor of repeal, why is this so hard?

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