Changing Standards On Stop-Gap Solutions
The President could end the discharges of gay and lesbian servicemen under the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy today. He could sign out an executive order essentially putting a moratorium on those discharges, or he could even just issue a change in implementation to the policy at the Defense Department. 77 members of Congress signed a letter to this effect this week, and yet the President maintains that the issue must be tackled legislatively.
The White House has responded to an inquiry from The Advocate about a letter sent from 77 House members Monday urging President Barack Obama to take immediate action to stop the investigations of "don't ask, don't tell" violations.
"President Obama remains committed to a legislative repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which he believes will provide a durable and lasting solution to this issue. He welcomes the commitment of these members to seeing Congress take action," read the statement.
Of course, an executive order or implementation order could be the first step to such a lasting solution. The President could offer legislative language as he secures the stoppage of implementation, form a blue-ribbon panel to study repeal, and then get the legislative and military machinery working together so that everything is ready for passage. He could have done that on day one. And yet he hasn't. As John Aravosis notes, the President hasn't been such a slave to precedent when it comes to certain immigration laws.
It's another immigration law that unfairly deports the foreign-born spouses of Americans who die in the first years of their marriage. The Obama administration is going to defer enforcement of that law until Congress can fix it in a few years.
Then why not defer enforcement of the HIV ban? Why not defer the deportation of the foreign-born partners of gay Americans? Why not defer enforcement of Don't Ask Don't Tell with a stop-loss order? Why not defer filing anti-gay briefs in support of DOMA? We've been told that in each case it's because "it's the law, and there's nothing President Obama can do when a law tells him what to do." And, Obama also adds that it would be inappropriate to order a stop-gap solution now, short of a full legislation fix. Same thing for health benefits for same-sex couples who federal employees. Remember, they said DOMA prevents that.
If the White House was just straight about this from the beginning, if they didn't come up with these unsatisfactory explanations, if they offered a real effort on gay civil rights in the first year, if they didn't rile up the community with a DOMA brief characterized by many as offensive, they would not see a pillar of the Democratic Party in open revolt right now. They had the "gays in the military" disaster they sought to avoid - only from the left. Bad job all around.