January 27, 2010
Obama's SOTU promise: End DADT in '10
Posted by: Chris
As expected, President Obama recounted passage of the hate crimes (without mentioning Matthew Shepard) and committed himself to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell this year:
This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.
You don't get higher profile than the State of the Union and it took political courage to take his on in an election year where Democrats look in trouble. This was not a throwaway gay mention in a run of the mill speech. It was a public commitment complete with a deadline in the speech where Obama set his highest priorities for what will be a difficult election year. That is not nothing.
Some no doubt expect more from President Obama on this issue, including an executive order staying prosecutions under the policy. That expects too much, and would set a dangerous precedent if he even attempted it. Only Congress can repeal DADT; an executive order attempting a de facto repeal would be patently illegal. We had more than enough of this sort of abuse of presidential power in the last administration.
Even if he could halt DADT by executive fiat, I do not think he should. That wasn't his campaign promise, and it would set off an entire side debate on executive authority and interference with the military, not to mention separation of powers. We don't need to risk moderate and independent support this way, especially with clear and historic Democratic majorities in both houses.
It's way too easy to focus all our impatience on the president. The fact remains that it's up to Congress to pass DADT repeal, and it's up to groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Stonewall Democrats to hold their feet to the fire until they do. And it's long past time for Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud to bring more public pressure to bear on the minority party not to block this and other gay rights bills by use of the anti-democratic filibuster in the Senate.
Enough talk, it's time for action. Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal is only one item on a list of promises candidate Obama made in 2008 and the Democratic Party has made for years. Success on that single issue doesn't even correct the reversals in gay civil rights from the last time Democrats controlled Washington -- that would require repealing the Defense of Marriage Act as well.
Now it's time for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to step up and act.
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