I know a lot of people don’t like the Human Rights Campaign (America’s biggest gay rights advocacy group at the national level) and therefore won’t trust any statement they put out. And fair enough – though I’ve been a rather vocal supporter of HRC in the past, I’ve also become a rather loud critic over the past six months. Having said that, what fascinating about this statement by HRC is what it shows.
I would suspect that HRC gave the White House a heads up that this statement was going out, and it’s even quite possible that they told the White House “we don’t really mean it, it just provides us cover with the angry Netroots.” But there’s the thing. HRC just came out and accused the President, publicly, of not providing leadership on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” For a lot of people, the fact that HRC, a long-time defender of the President on gay issues, is now criticizing that same President, means that Obama must REALLY be bad for HRC to say something negative.
And on the heels of Congressman Barney Frank’s admission last week that the White House is “ducking” the repeal of DADT, and “not being supportive,” this statement by HRC becomes only that much more serious for the White House.
Second point. If Obama were actually showing leadership on DADT, HRC wouldn’t put out a statement saying he wasn’t. They’d simply explain the ways in which the President was working towards repeal this year. But he’s not. And HRC had no choice but to tell the truth. That means things really are bad with the White House on DADT, just as we’ve been saying for almost a year now.
Does this get HRC off the hook for covering the President for the past year that he’s been backtracking on our issues, for saying that the President had a plan, and all was going well? No. But it is an important first step, and I’ll give HRC credit for it, regardless of their motivation, and regardless of what they did or didn’t signal privately to the White House.
Here’s the problem for the White House and for Democrats overall. A lot of gay people will take HRC at its word, that the President is NOT showing leadership on DADT, and that such leadership must be shown if we are to get repeal this year before the elections. If DADT isn’t repealed this year, the President will share a large part of the blame, per HRC’s own admission today. Joe and I have been saying for a while now that the Democrats are walking on very thin ice with regards to the party’s relationship with the gay community and our allies. I think, with this statement from HRC today, you’re starting to see that ice begin to crack.
It’s no longer the Netroots saying that President Obama isn’t showing leadership on his promises. It’s now the largest gay rights group in America. Democrats, eight months before a crucial congressional election, you have a problem.
Here is HRC’s full statement:
Human Rights Campaign Statement on DOJ Brief in Support of Discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Law
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released the following statement today regarding the United States Department of Justice’s filing in Log Cabin Republicans v. Gates, a constitutional challenge to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).
The Log Cabin Republicans challenged the 1993 law in federal court in 2004. On Monday, March 29, the Department of Justice filed a brief defending the law, stating among other things that Congress could have rationally concluded that DADT was necessary to ensure privacy, reduce sexual tension, and maintain unit cohesion and military preparedness.
Statement by Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese:
“We were proud when the President stood before the American people and declared in his State of the Union that it is time to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ If he’s going to uphold that commitment, however, he must ensure that his Administration doesn’t work against it. The time for repeal is this year, and the time for his leadership is now.
“Over the last several years, I have met countless veterans who have sacrificed in the name of freedom, but in doing so were unfairly forced to sacrifice their integrity by hiding who they are. They love this country, have put their lives on the line to defend it, and serve just as courageously as all our men and women in uniform. Yet, they are forced to serve under the discriminatory DADT law, or to not serve at all.
“While these veterans – and so many Americans in support of them – are fighting along side our President and many Congressional leaders to achieve repeal, today we took a step backward when the Department of Justice filed a brief in defense of the law. The brief relies on arguments that were debunked and discredited in 1993, and even more so now. When military leaders – including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, General Collin Powell and Vice President Cheney – have the courage to stand up and say it is time to throw out the discriminatory policies of the past, it is also time for this Administration to show leadership, move the debate forward, and work with Congress to get repeal done.
“This year presents an unprecedented opportunity to repeal the law, and to finally recognize that all brave men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line for this country deserve to serve openly. While the Pentagon undertakes its review of how to implement repeal, Congress can and must move forward in repealing DADT in the same bill that put it into law more than 17 years ago – the defense authorization act. And the President can and must provide the leadership necessary to get the law passed this year.”