On July 26, 1948, three months before a very tough election, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which desegregated the military. It was a very controversial move. Last week, Igor Volsky at Think Progress uncovered the polls conducted of military personnel showing overwhelming opposition to desegregation. And, a Gallup Poll in March of 1948 showed “63% thought that black troops and white troops should remain separated, while 26% thought they should live and work together.
Truman was undaunted by public opinion or his upcoming election. He took the decisive action anyway. It was the right thing to do. On the subject of military desegregation, Michael R. Gardner’s book, “Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks,” includes this quote from Civil Rights icon Dorothy Height, who recently pased away:
“Harry Truman’s integration of the armed services represented the most significant institutional advance for the civil rights of black Americans since President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.”
As we know, Congress has to pass legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And, the compromise language, which is included in the Defense authorization bill, is facing a vote in the full Senate, hopefully in September. This past weekend, in a video address to Netroots Nation, President Obama said he had been “working” on DADT repeal. I’d like a fuller explanation of his definition of “working,” since I’m pretty sure he didn’t make one call to any member of Congress on this legislation during the House and Senate Armed Services Committee debates in May.
Unlike Truman, who faced major opposition to ending military segregation, Obama presides over a country where “78 percent of the public supports allowing openly gay people to serve in the military.”