February 04, 2010
We are the uniter, not the divider
Posted by: Chris
Why is the issue of gay rights considered so divisive? I still remember four years ago how the prospect of a simple Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem accomplished what centuries of wars could not: unifying Jewish, Palestinian and even Christian leaders in Israel and the West Bank.
Now we're seeing a similar effect on weak-kneed members of Congress, who are predictably following up a year of delay on gay rights, by agreeing that an election year "in the midst of two wars" is not the time to debate the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell:
"I don't think it will be a campaign issue," House Republican Leader John Boehner told NBC. "In the middle of two wars, and in the middle of this giant security threat, why would we want to get into this debate?"
Meanwhile, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said nothing about the proposed policy change, which he personally opposes, despite having a perfect platform for doing so Wednesday. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen testified before Skelton's committee, and they received only a smattering of questions or comments from lawmakers about the topic that dominated their testimony before senators a day earlier.
It's certainly possible that the gays and military subject will arise in some congressional campaigns this year. House Democratic leaders said they will quietly sound out their more moderate and politically vulnerable members before deciding when to seek a vote to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
That final, highlighted sentence ought to result in phone lines burning up between the Human Rights Campaign and other supposed political insiders. The time is now, like never before, with every indication there will be fewer favorable votes on DADT and other gay rights issues after the November midtern election.
There may be districts where the issue cuts against moderate and conservative Dems, but look at the polling data:
Pew Research polls found that support for gays serving openly in the military rose from just over half of all Americans in 1994 to nearly 60 percent in 2005 and later years. Opposition dropped from 45 percent to 32 percent, and the proportion of people "strongly opposed" dropped by half, to 13 percent.
A USA Today/Gallup poll from mid-2009 showed even stronger support for letting gays serve openly in the military: 69 percent in favor, 26 opposed and 6 percent unsure. Among Republicans and conservatives, the rate of support was 58 percent. Support ran lowest in the South and among older Americans, but it still easily exceeded 50 percent among those groups.
With the scene set so favorably, it ought to be a no-brainer to get DADT repeal included in the Defense Department budget bill now under consideration in Congress. If not, then Capitol Hill is not the only place where heads need to roll.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
The comments to this entry are closed.