Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as grateful and happy as the next LGBT American that we now have a memorandum from the White House to permit us to visit our partners in the hospital when they are sick or dying. What I don’t understand, and can’t seem to rationalize, is why one of these memorandums hasn’t been issued to prevent gays and lesbians from being discharged from the military, or fired from their civilian jobs, simply for being gay?
Also hard to take is the media’s suggestion that the hospital memo is a BOLD move by the Obama Administration. If the President wants to improve his relationship with the LGBT community there are a few things over at the “Don’t Ask Don’t Give” pledge he promised us that he could follow through on instead of the whole “one step forward two steps back, slow walking, incremental change” strategy that he’s been following for the past 16 months.
One thing that disturbs me most is that it seems the Obama administration always tentatively steps into issues, shows its cards, and invites conservatives to whip up opposition while the administration takes it time moving forward. The administration either doesn’t want the change it says it believes in, or it is too frightened by the consequences of change to do what it says it wants.
Change requires bold leadership. The kind of leadership that was exemplified by President Eisenhower during World War II. The kind of leadership that paved the way for an African-American to become Commander-in-Chief.
In the midst of the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was severely short of replacement troops for existing military units–all of which were totally white in composition. Consequently, he made the decision to allow Afro-American soldiers to pick up a gun and join the white military units to fight in combat for the first time. This was the first step toward a desegregated United States military. Eisenhower’s decision in this case was strongly opposed by his own army chief of staff, [[Lieutenent General Walter Bedell Smith. Indeed, it was stated that Bedell Smith was outraged by the decision and had said that the American public take offense at the integration of the military units.
In 1948, President Harry S Truman’s Executive Order 9981 ordered the integration of the armed forces shortly after World War II, a major advance in civil rights. Using the Executive Order (E.O.) meant that Truman could bypass Congress. Representatives of the Solid South, all white Democrats, would likely have stonewalled related legislation.
For instance, in May 1948, Richard B. Russell, Democratic Senator from Georgia, attached an amendment to the Selective Services bill then being debated in Congress. The Russell amendment would have granted draftees and new inductees an opportunity to choose whether or not they wanted to serve in segregated military units. Russell’s amendment was defeated in committee. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948. In June 1950 when the Selective Services Law came up for renewal, Russell tried again to attach his segregation amendment, and again Congress defeated it.
Note that Eisenhower didn’t check with his critics, and certainly did not issue a poll to the soldier’s parents asking them, “Would it be okay if Johnny served alongside an African American soldier?” Nothing is stopping the Obama Administration from issuing an Executive Order ending DADT while the policy is being reviewed. Eisenhower didn’t take small careful steps to end segregation, neither should Obama. It doesn’t take much courage to check with all your potential critics and determine they don’t mind the changes you are considering.
Around the same time, other officials began talking to hospitals with religious affiliations to gauge what the reaction might be. Josh Dubois, who is in charge of the president’s outreach to the religious community, called Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association.
“They reached out to say this was a concern of some groups, and they wanted to know were there any obstacles,” Keehan said.
It is too cute by half that the Obama Administration feels the need to check with the Catholics right now, considering their problems with child rape by their priests. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some bold, unapologetic change, especially considering we are at war and can ill afford to be losing good soldiers simply because their sexual orientation happens to be gay. We are simply asking for the changes promised us instead of apologetic half measures for fear of upsetting the Tea Partier or conservative Catholic Bishop types. I’m waiting for Obama to show some fierce advocacy so we can continue to support him and his policies one hundred and ten percent.