A little more than an hour into his State of the Union speech, Obama glancingly addressed the fact that he has done nothing notable in the past year to expand the rights of gays. He said he was committed to working to repeal the “don’t ask; don’t tell” military policy that forces gay people in the armed forces to remain closeted or face discrimination. “This year,” he said, “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.”
This year! That sounds like an action plan. But it’s not really, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Gay members of the military are being discharged this year for being gay, said Executive Rea Carey in a release after the speech. They’re being discharged right now. “The time for broad statements is over. The time to get down to business is overdue. We wish we had heard [the president] speak of concrete steps tonight.”
“President Obama tonight vowed this year to work with Congress and the military to finally repeal the reprehensible ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. While we know the State of the Union speech aims to present broad visions, the next time President Obama speaks to or about our community, he must provide a concrete blueprint for his leadership and action moving forward — this includes his willingness to stop the discharges happening on his watch until Congress can fulfill its responsibility to overturn the law…
“Until that happens, the state of the union for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans will largely remain one of inequality and discrimination. Indeed, it is a disgrace that patriotic service members are still being discharged under the president’s watch, LGBT employees nationwide are still being fired for nothing other than bias, and marriage inequality relegates our families to second-class status.
Live blogging the speech, The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, who has been harshly critical of Obama’s lack of action on gay rights in the past, was cautiously optimistic.
On Ending DADT: it’s the right thing to do. But I note that he has committed only to working with Congress and the military to end the ban this year. If he achieves it, I will stand up and cheer. But I have experienced enough crushing disappointments to believe it will actually happen.
In October, in reaction to the news that Obama planned to address gay group Human Rights Campaign, Sullivan was less optimistic and less restrained in his remarks, previewing in more colorful language the sentiments of the Task Force tonight.
If Obama wants to support gay equality, he knows what to do…. So spare us the schmoozing and the sweet-talking and do it. Until then, Mr president, why don’t you have a nice steaming cup of shut-the-fuck-up?