I've had many criticisms of the Obama administration's tardy and milque-toast efforts on civil rights for gays and lesbians. But at this point, the peril facing repeal of the military's gay ban is not the administration's fault. In fact, it seems to me the events of the last month or so reveal that the Obama administration has finally delivered the goods for the military, which is hobbled by this dated, counter-productive policy, and for the gay community, by moving the issue deliberately through the Congress before the executive branch or the judicial branch. And the fact remains that in the current Congress, we have essentially achieved repeal, with the military's support and blessing - only to be foiled by tricky parliamentary maneuvering by a hard Republican faction that is impervious to reason. That's some achievement, however tragic the possibility of defeat.
I mean: look at it. We have the support of the Joint Chiefs, the Republican defense secretary, the majority of the troops, a hefty majority of the public, a majority in the House, and 57-40 majority in the Senate and a president ready to sign the bill. What more - to be frank - could we ask of the administration? Yes, I know there are executive branch ways forward, and judicial intervention looms as well. But it is far, far, far preferable that DADT be undone the way it was done - by the Congress.
All that stands in the way is the filibuster and those Republicans supporting it. But those Republicans must surely know, as defense secretary Gates has warned, that if they do not act with care and deliberation in the Senate, the courts at some point will - with far more damage to military readiness than a careful and deliberate phasing in of this overdue reform. I suppose the far right could try and use a potential court ruling to burnish their view that the courts are the source of all evil, especially gay evil. But if they deny gays equality by the legislative route through a parliamentary maneuver that clearly overrules the plain will of the Congress and the majority of the public, they can hardly complain that a tiny minority, essentially checkmated by one faction of one party with a filibuster, would seek recourse in the courts instead. And if they really want to save the military from disruption, the path charted by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Pentagon Report and defense secretary Gates is obviously the responsible way forward.
We are so close it would be truly insane to let this moment pass. So we mustn't let it pass. I agree with Capehart here:
If Congress, particularly the Senate, doesn't want the courts to do its job for it, lawmakers should move heaven and earth to pass the stand-alone measure. Stay over Christmas. Stay over New Year's. Udall is willing to. So is Lieberman. As one activist told me this week, it would be a massive failure for Congress to walk away for the holidays while 65,000 continue to serve in silence and others aren't even allowed to serve at all.
What we all need to do is to contact Senators - especially liberal Republican Senators like Scott Brown and conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin - to ensure that the sane middle is heard this time. This is not the time for resignation or resentment or fatalism. It's the time for a final push to take the knife out of the back of a small but honorable minority of US servicemembers. Let us finally do them justice.
Yes, we can.
(Photo: Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) listens while Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill December 9, 2010 in Washington, DC. By Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images.)
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