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Outrage Over Booing Gay Soldier Resonates as President Takes Up Cause

At a fundraiser Sunday night in Silicon Valley, the President raised the issue of members of a Republican debate audience in Florida booing a gay soldier who asked a question about the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Some of you here may be folks who actually used to be Republican, but are puzzled by what’s happened to that party. (Laughter.) Are puzzled by what’s happened to that party. I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately? (Laughter.)

You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change. (Laughter and applause.) No, no, it’s true. You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care, and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay. That’s not reflective of who we are. (Applause.) We’ve had differences in the past, but at some level we’ve always believed, you know what, that we’re not defined by our differences. We’re bound together.

Setting aside some of the clap louder rhetoric in that and other speeches over the weekend, I think this particular issue is important, and one where words matter. In his speech to the  United Nations General Assembly the President said publicly that “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.” Now you have the President calling out Republican audience members booing gay service members. When Obama used the term “fierce advocate,” this is more along the lines of what the LGBT community had in mind.

Obviously this is tied in with Presidential politics: LGBT individuals make up a portion of the President’s funding base. But there’s room to leverage this advocacy. AmericaBlog has a petition demanding an apology from all Republican Presidential candidates over the treatment given the LGBT soldier at last week’s debate

This has the makings of a real wedge issue from the left. DADT is over and a large reason why is that repeal had 70 percent support. Republicans who continue this belligerent attack on the end of the policy are increasingly isolated. The anti-gay issue doesn’t work uniformly in the same way that it used to. And with an assist from the President, it’s likelier for the LGBT community to leverage some political power.

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David Dayen

David Dayen