I encourage enthusiastic and frequent condemnation of the Obama administration’s brief in defense of DOMA and its timidity in moving forward on the repeal of DADT. The DOJ brief was egregious, whether or not you agree that the administration was bound by law to defend it -- there’s defense and then there’s defense. The refusal to take the lead on DADT, along with a refusal to give any indication that the White House may be pursuing any strategy on DADT beyond waiting for Harry Reid to do something, is equally disturbing.
Hold people responsible. Demand action. Withhold support from those who act against you. Those are all eminently reasonable positions. But, to put it bluntly, going out of our way to piss all over even minor advances in federal-level LGBT rights will not get us anywhere.
Was Obama’s signing of a memorandum extending limited benefits to federal employees something deserving of massive celebrations? Of course not. But was it something for us to dismiss out of hand as mere political stagecraft? No.
Maybe I’m just too old matter anymore, but the sight of Frank Kameny standing in the Oval Office alongside the President of the United States means a lot to me. Actually, I’m only 41, but everything that happened today would have been unimaginable to me 20 years ago as I was graduating college and moving to D.C. Despite efforts to cobble together some individual cases of federal employees receiving some of these benefits previously -- just as the fact that some gay and lesbian soldiers have served openly due to “enlightened” supervisors doesn’t negate the existence or effect of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” finding a federal employee who received some benefits doesn’t prove the broader availability or provision of those benefits for all LGBT federal workers -- this is a new step. Incomplete and imperfect, but a new step. And as much as some may wish to move beyond the fact that Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law back at midnight back in the 1990s, that awful experience remains a counterpart to yesterday when Obama declared in a live, televised ceremony that DOMA is discriminatory and should be repealed.
What happened at the White House was neither insignificant nor perfect. There are many, many promises and pledges for which Barack Obama needs to be held accountable. There are many goals for our community that can only be reached when the Democratic-controlled congress stops making excuses and starts moving legislation. The memorandum Obama signed isn’t cause for us to go dancing in the streets. But if we can’t acknowledge even the small goods that we achieve, I’m not sure how we convince people to join us in moving forward in achieving the larger ones.