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Obama and Gay Inc: Advocates of status quo

On October 10, CNN aired a roundtable discussion regarding President Obama’s speech to the Human Rights Campaign. During the discussion the conversation turned into a debate on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the rule that allows the military to fire anyone that reveals a non-heterosexual identity.

Dan Savage (syndicated sex columnist and Editorial Director of The Stranger, a weekly newspaper in Seattle, WA) and Hilary Rosen (CNN political correspondent that also serves on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Board) have an exchange after the first minute of segment two of the broadcast:

Savage asks why Obama won’t issue a stop loss order that would end the enforcement of DADT, thus allowing LGBT people to serve without threat of termination until Congress can manage to repeal the bill. Rosen admits that Obama can issue a stop loss but won’t because “gay military advocates asked him not to.”

Gay military advisors told Obama not to issue a stop loss and prevent the firing of any more LGBT people? Really? In the first place I didn’t realize there was such a thing as a “gay military advocate” and secondly, I thought – why would they want to discourage the President from taking the only action he can take before a repeal is delivered to him by an increasingly inept and complicit Democratic Party majority?

After spending a few days searching the internet for clues and discussing that remark with friends, I decided to look for Hilary Rosen on Facebook to see if she would answer my question. She does have a profile. I sent her a message on Thursday morning and she replied within 2 hours. Here is her response:

“SLDN came out in opposition to the stop loss plan. They say they only want legislation. That effectively killed the lobbying for it and any momentum the White House might have been feeling. My view was that if we stop the discharges we succeed. We can work over time to change the law. They saw it differently. So the community screwed it up for ourselves.”

Of course:  gay military advocates = SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network). I should have made the connection myself. What I didn’t realize is that they really are against what they consider a temporary solution in the form of a stop loss order. I found two references to their position today. military

“The Washington-based Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, however, views congressional action as the only practical approach – and one with excellent prospects. “We're looking at the next 12 months for repeal,” says Kevin Nix, the network's communications director. That time frame would put the matter before the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress, which runs through 2010.”

“But (White House Press Secretary Robert) Gibbs said change required 'more than the snapping of one's fingers.' He said Obama considered congressional action the best way to ensure real change. He said the president would refrain from issuing executive orders to halt discharges.

Legal analysts differ about whether Obama's intervention would help the cause of integrating gays or hurt it by taking the pressure off Congress to repeal the ban.

“It's better to address the statute itself rather than issue an executive order that would temporarily suspend discharges” and leave lawmakers to think there is no urgency to amend the law, said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which lobbies to end the ban.”

There you have it. As Rosen said in her response to me, “…the community has screwed it up forourselves.” But have we really? Have WE screwed this up?

We, the pajama wearing members of the fringe, the less politically aware people that don’t have the sense to attend a big ticket gala that supports advocacy groups, have WE screwed up our attempts to gain full citizenship or have the advocacy groups done it for us?

In my response to Rosen, and this was where our conversation ended, I said:

“Wow. That's interesting and disappointing. I wonder if some pressure on the SLDN would get them to change their minds and consequently help Obama take the desired and just action.

Of all the advice offered on the topic he chose to heed SLDN…imagine what Obama might do if he were similarly counseled by other high profile gay advocacy organizations with a stake in the outcome like SLDN has in military issues. If Obama listens to SLDN maybe he would also listen to a demand for the fierce advocacy he promised in other matters (not to mention) address an audience of non-gays to gain their support.”

What is the point of advocacy groups (aka Gay Inc) if their self-interests – their survival beyond accomplishing what they were formed to accomplish – trump our situation? I don’t know why SLDN thinks their determination that a permanent solution to DADT is more important than stopping the foolish policy immediately, but can’t they be encouraged – pressured – into changing their position? Shouldn’t they be pressured?  Why do they get the last word when that word means that we will continue to be persecuted until THEY do something about it?

We can fully expect that the HRC won’t be pressuring SLDN to do anything. Political advocacy isn’t something the HRC likes to engage in and they don’t think the President should be pressured into doing anything (we should wait until 2017). This lack of advocacy from the largest LGBT advocacy group in the country comes even though we KNOW that the President is heeding the advice of SLDN to not issue a stop loss. Obama will listen to a gay rights organization as long as they tell him not to do something.

Shouldn’t one of our advocacy organizations tell “fierce advocate” commander-in-chief to take positive action on our behalf?

On Friday, the White House issued the same statement they always make about the rights of same-sex couples. Of course, they had to be pressed into issuing a statement in the first place (by the Advocate magazie) and their words are steadfast in their adherence to awkward non-committal:

“The President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples, and as he said at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, he believes 'strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away.' Also at the dinner, he said he supports, 'ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country.”

No specific mention is made of Maine or Washington State. The emphsis is again on the false notion of segregated justice, that separate but equal legislation should be created to allow the United States to divide its citizens into two categories – the fully vested, legitimate members and the undesired yet reluctantly accepted minority.

Would any of our advocacy groups dare to ask this President to distinguish for us the difference between Jim Crow laws and the creation of civil unions? Would any highly compensated individual from a well funded advocacy group be brave enough to ask the President if he would find it acceptable if half of the states in the country continued to designate “colored only” public accommodations as long as the accommodations were the same as offered to any non-colored person in the country?

We need to shun these Gay Inc. organizations for playing shell games with us (it’s the SLDN’s fault – the president can wait as long as he wants – “We screwed it up for ourselves.”) while enabling the President to pretend he will act on our behalf. We need to realize our power and apply pressure to these advocate agencies that would die without our support – no more campaign contributions, no more donations to Gay Inc, no more polite acceptance of status quo, no more waiting.

We must demand what we know is right and just and overdue to us from these lousy self-serving advocates and the calculating and cowardly DNC as well as the complicit President. The March on DC was the first step and if we really want equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states then we must act on our own and leave the advocates behind to fend for themselves like they did for us long ago. It is time for us to declare our own war.

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