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Outrage, Finger-Pointing Over Stall of DADT Repeal

The mood of the LGBT community is subdued to say the least, after the defense authorization bill, which included a compromise legislative repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, failed to achieve cloture on a motion to proceed yesterday. Republican lockstep opposition was triggered by a variety of factors, but publicly they claimed it was about the closed amendment process and the attempted passage of the bill before completion of the Pentagon study about the policy.

Both of these are bogus arguments. Harry Reid said explicitly that he would allow Republican amendments at a later date, but wanted to get on the bill now. And the Pentagon study concerned implementation of a policy change with the full support of the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. The GOP hid behind these arguments so as not to display their bigotry, which leaked out of Saxby Chambliss’ Atlanta offices at one point.

However, allowing Republicans to make both of these arguments has angered the LGBT community.

In the last few days, as the likelihood of defeat became apparent, some repeal advocates also blamed Republican obstructionism, but most said the president didn’t work hard enough to keep his campaign promise of repeal, and said Reid erred by rejecting Republican requests to allow the GOP to offer amendments to the bill […]

“This is the result of an across-the-board failure of leadership by the president, the Pentagon and the Congress,” said Richard Socarides, who advised Clinton on gay issues. “Delaying repeal for another pentagon study was exactly the wrong strategy and played right into the hands of entrenched military interests opposed to open service now as they were in 1993.”

Others faulted Obama for being largely absent from the debate.

“Where is he?” prominent gay author Michelangelo Signorile wrote on his Twitter feed.

“We haven’t noticed any activism on this issue out of the White House at all,” said Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United. “It just goes to show what we’ve suspected all along: the White House never supported moving forward on this issue…..and was backed into a corner and jumped on the train as it was leaving the station.”

Nicholson also said Reid blundered when he refused to allow Republicans free rein to amend the bill.

“That blew the votes we had lined up,” Nicholson said. “We’re certainly disappointed [Republican senators] didn’t break ranks with their party [but] Sen. Reid made it much harder for them to do the right thing.”

It’s worth noting that nothing has to change here. The legislative repeal remains in the defense authorization bill. Harry Reid has vowed to take that up after the elections, and the opposition would still need 60 votes to strip out the repeal. And, the Pentagon study is due December 1, eliminating the ability of Republicans to argue “wait for the study.”

But nobody knows what the study will show. And by November, the composition of the Senate will change, with special elections in New York, Illinois and Delaware that will be seated right after the election (in particular, Illinois could flip to Republican and make the split 58-42). And with an open amendment process, the Senate could add amendments like including the four service chiefs on signing off on the process, and we know at least the Marine Corps head (just appointed by Obama) opposes repeal.

So you can hardly blame the LGBT community for looking to the courts, where the outcomes recently have been more favorable, and hoping that the judicial process will earn them equality on a number of fronts. The President and the Justice Department can speed that along by declining to appeal a ruling striking down the don’t ask don’t tell policy as unconstitutional.

(The video, by the way, is from here. Do watch John McCain deny reality and documented fact, it’s amusing.)

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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