Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DOMA, DADT and walking the walk: two cases in point

Busy week!  Let's review, shall we?

Setting:  Mid-term election campaigning in full swing with the Democrats on the defensive, most notably with their own base.  A significant part of the disappointment many progressives feel relates specifically to the Administration's failure to follow through with unequivocal campaign promises regarding equality for gay people.  This failure has recently become more poignant and pronounced due to a small flood of young gay suicides that have found their way into the mainstream media.

Act One:  HRC dinner on Saturday where Valerie Jarrett says all the right things to an A-list crowd.

Act Two:  Dan Savage of the It Gets Better Project reacts on Monday, calling FAIL/FOUL.

Act Three, Scene One:  The Obama DOJ files notices of appeal in two separate federal cases where DOMA was ruled unconstitutional back in July.  This was yesterday.

Act Three, Scene Two:  A federal court in California issued an injunction yesterday (over the DOJ's objection), ordering the military to immediately cease enforcing DADT, a practice the court had found unconstitutional last month in a case brought by the Log Cabin Republicans.  The DOJ is reviewing its options on how, if at all, to proceed.

Act Four:  TBD.

So, essentially, we have a President and an Administration who say one thing and do quite the opposite.  The Great Oz says pay no attention to those lawyerly minions behind the curtain!!  The problem is:  the curtain's open and we see what's going on.  And it would all be amusing if it were not so serious; it's hard to be anything but appalled when people's lives are on the line.  Whether it's currently-closeted servicemen and -women risking their lives in the military (and risking their careers if they come out) or young gay people discovering they are second-class citizens (at best to be tolerated, at worst to be actively targeted, by the laws and lawmakers of the country of their birth), we should realize real lives of real people are damaged by these policies...with real consequences.

And what of the consequences if the policies were reversed?  There are none, if ignorance and fear were also thrown out.  The straight serviceman would have to serve with the same gay guy he's been serving with, except now both can be open (if they choose) about their lives and loves.  And the straight married couple will realize that their marriage remains undiminished in the eyes of God and the State but that our laws, which separate Church and State, do not allow them to define what constitutes a civil union/marriage based on a religiously-founded notion of morality or tradition.  If they, as individuals or as groups of individuals, refuse to recognize the civil equality of such relationships, that is their choice; regardless, they cannot dictate that position to a government that promises equal opportunity.

As my mother used to say:  they'll have to go pound sand.

I don't think there are many who, no matter what their personal conviction, believe DOMA and DADT are tenable at this point.  This realization may gladden or sadden, but it's now a matter of time.  Surely the Obama Administration knows this...indeed we've been told this is what they want.  So why do they continue to fight against the tide?  To make nice with the Right?  We know how that plays out.  To appear moderate to all those important Independents out there whose help they'll require for a second term in 2012?  Perhaps, but they risk misreading political independents as unwilling to respect and reward firmly-held values (even when they run counter to their own) -- or punish perceived political cowardice.

The President who prefers not to get his hands dirty is being handed a campaign promise fulfilled (DADT) on a silver platter by a nice, clean judge in that other branch of government -- the one where the political referees live.  He knows them.  He went to school with them.  He no doubt agrees with them.

Act Four:  President Obama [takes/hands back] the tray.

[Image source here.]