A reader writes:
Unfortunately, it's not true that "Dems had 60 votes for a full year." Because of the Franken/Coleman debacle, they didn't get their 60th seat until July 7, 2009. Scott Brown was seated on February 4, 2010. But Democrats didn't even have those seven months because it took a month to seat Paul Kirk after Edward Kennedy died (August 25 - September 24). So, six months. But Congress wasn't even in session during August and half of November-January. That left about 4.5 months. Should that have been enough time to take care of DADT? Perhaps. But it's just over a third of the time you were granting them.
I repeat: a civil rights proposal with 62 percent Republican support in the country would have been a no-brainer if the president had any guts, the Human Rights Campaign had any competence, and the Democrats had even the slightest integrity. Another writes:
What happened during those 4 months? Democrats got through the Shepard/Byrd Hate Crimes Bill, the first piece of expressly pro-LGBT legislation ever to pass Congress. And even that inoffensive piece of business couldn't pass the Senate as a stand-alone bill; it had to go through as an attachment to a larger, must-pass piece of legislation.
The number of hate crimes prosecutions under the new law, now a year old: zero. I checked with the FBI this week. There are many other "investigations" pending but they understandably cannot give details until the facts are resolved. But I repeat: the Human Rights Campaign's Number One item - the thing they postponed DADT repeal for - has resulted in no actual prosecutions in the year since it was passed.
Meanwhile, gay servicemembers are still being routinely fired by president Obama, and still live under the threat of persecution merely for not lying. And do you not think that a government that itself allows harassment and threats against gay people has no moral standing to prosecute private citizens for doing the same thing? If Obama opposes persecuting gay people for being gay, he should start with himself as commander in chief. He has discriminated against more gay people in the last year than any single private individual or company in the land. There are no excuses. And his cowardice may mean years more persecution for gay servicemembers. If the House goes Republican this fall, as seems very likely, and it it is jammed with Christianists, as seems even likelier, this critical window could be lost for another decade. My reader continues:
The Hate Crimes bill would not have been my first choice of gay legislation to pass while the Dems had a bullet-proof majority in the Senate. Nor would DADT repeal, for that matter. ENDA would have been my pick. But the Hate Crimes bill is clearly what LGBT supporters in Congress thought was the easiest lift.
Tell me you don't think for a minute that, during that four-month window, in the heat of the fight over healthcare reform, we could have gotten both hate crimes and another piece of LGBT legislation passed? ’Cause that would be crazy talk!
The hate crimes bill should have been the last item on the agenda, not the first. Many gay voters of libertarian and conservative bent actually oppose it. But there is unanimity on the military, ENDA and DOMA. Moreover, its impact has been negligible. It was designed purely to exploit fear of anti-gay violence to line the coffers of the Human Rights Campaign - while gay couples are split apart, their children have no security, and gay soldiers face constant stress from their own commander-in-chief. Another reader complains:
First, Democrats only had 60 votes for about six months, from early July when Franken was sworn in until early February when Brown was sworn in.
Second, attaching it to the bill increases the odds of passage because some Democrats likely wouldn't be for repealing DADT alone.
Why for Heaven's sake? When vast majorities of the public favor it, when every other major military, including our core allies, have ended this foul discrimination? When HRC has been donating money and so many gay people worked their guts out for this administration in the campaign where this was a clear pledge? But back to my reader:
Finally, Democrats had to wait for this year's defense bill because the military leadership wasn't on board with repeal. And guess what? People like the military more than they like members of Congress. Recall how General Colin Powell ran circles around President Clinton on this issue in 1993. Democrats in red/purple states wouldn't be on board if the military was vocally against repeal. And getting them on board took time. And remember, even Admiral Mullen couched his support for repeal in completing the study!
The military's job is to obey the commander in chief and the Congress. Giving them this kind of leverage over a core civil rights matter, while politically prudent, is constitutionally dangerous. You think Truman would have done such a thing? HRC had two decades to lobby these people. It was a clear Obama campaign commitment. Over 75 percent of the public support it. And the Democrats still do not have the balls to take it on as a stand-alone issue and fight for it and argue for it and stand buy it? What a bunch of spineless, useless creeps. Another:
Once again, you are hyperbolizing and twisting the facts on the Dems. When the Dems had a 60 vote majority, they still would have only had 58 votes. Filibuster still wins.
Now, you can argue that the Arkansas Dems would have vote for cloture under that scenario, but I wouldn't be so sure. The Democrats have never been able to enforce the unity that the Republicans can in their fear-based opposition. Moreover, a year ago, with no expectation that the Democrats would lose their 60-vote supermajority, you would have argued that President Obama was meep-meeping the Republicans as a national consensus built around repealing DADT.
But the national consensus had already been built by the time Obama came to office - though with precious little help from any Democrats.
It sucks, no question. But to blame the "Democrats" as a party, rather than a few cynical cowards who don't represent the broader view of the party, is worse than silly - it's stupid and self-destructive.
Keep up the pressure. It is warranted and necessary. But if you want to guarantee that DADT is never repealed (not to mention DOMA), then go right ahead and bite off your nose to spite your face and lead a gay abandonment of the Democrats.
Did you see that Kay Hagan, who holds Jesse Helms' old seat, voted to repeal DADT? Tolerance will break through this hatred eventually.
But not among the Democrats, and not under this president, whose betrayal of and contempt for his gay supporters is now beyond dispute. If I had wanted an administration reeking of fear and cowardice, I would have backed Clinton in the primaries.
(Photo: Antonio Agnone helps to plant hundreds of American flags displayed on the National Mall as part of a campaign by gay rights lobbying groups including the Log Cabin Republicans, Liberty Education Forum, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and the Human Rights Campaign November 30, 2007 in Washington, DC. The groups planted the flags on the anniversary of the signing of the 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' law, with one American flag for each soldier discharged from military service due to their sexuality. By Win McNamee/Getty Images.)