Why DADT Repeal Could Spur More Legal Reforms

I honestly did not think Congress would repeal DADT in their lame duck session. I figured it would be another one of those things where the government talks a lot, but doesn’t do much. 

I was wrong. 

While actual military change won’t occur for at least another few months, already people are talking about what happens next. 

Political Viability

Many think that LGBT political organizations will turn attention to repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act; others think that they should spend time on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would add sexual orientation as a protected class.

But Congress is changing. Once the lame-duck session ends, Republicans will run the house, have a stronger position in the Senate, and will probably perform well in 2012 as well. The prospects of legislative repeal of DOMA, then, are slim, as Lucy Madison explains on CBS News:

Progressives are likely to face a steep battle in repealing the Defense of Marriage Act in the new Congress – which will be significantly more conservative than the current body thanks to GOP gains in November – and some believe the issue has a better chance in the courts.

A Cultural Alternative

If further legislative progress can’t happen in this next Congress, perhaps attention should instead be focused on cultural attitudes.

Nathan Hodge, a Wall Street Journal reporter, talked about the cultural effect of DADT repeal:

Passage of the measure may also spur broader debate about issues like gay marriage rights. Kate Kendell, the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said debate over the military policy “ignited a national conversation not just about the ability of lesbians and gay men to be good soldiers, but about the underpinnings of all sorts of government-sanctioned discrimination.”

President Obama’s recent comments on gay marriage indicate that the change might happen culturally before it happens legislatively. Last Wednesday he said:

At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have.  And I think — and I think that’s the right thing to do.  But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward. . . .  This is going to be an issue that is not unique to the military — this is an issue that extends to all of our society, and I think we’re all going to have to have a conversation about it. 

[Cross-posted at the Gay Law Report by Gideon Alper, a Georgia asset protection and domestic partnership attorney.]

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