The repeal of the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that banned gay military personnel from serving openly (or, really, even if they kept in the closet, given the escalation of witch hunts that preyed into emails, followed up hearsay, and tracked service members’ off-duty socializing) went into effect today, although opposition by the socially reactionary right continues.
The repeal measure was passed at the very end of the last Congress, just before the Democrats gave up control of the House, due in no small measure to this.
More. On Tuesday night, I attended a celebration by the National Log Cabin Republicans in D.C. marking the end of the ban. Addressing the gathering and speaking movingly about its meaning, with many references to individual liberty and liberty for all (that is, Republican language), were Sen. Susan Collins, Sen. Scott Brown, Rep. Richard Hanna, and Rep. Nan Hayworth. Also in attendance: former Reps. Jim Kolbe and Tom Davis.
As noted above, I believe that Log Cabin, with a national staff of three (yes, three!) played a critical role. Moreover, the true congressional heroes of the repeal were Sen. Collins and Sen. Joe Lieberman.
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, it should be noted, never pushed for repeal or any other pro-gay equality legislation, but his role with “don’t ask, don’t tell” was particularly egregious. In late 2010, he insisted that the repeal bill be combined with an appropriations measure that the GOP was determined to block, and did with its filibuster. Reid then declared it was the GOP’s fault that the repeal failed. An incensed Sen. Collins and Sen. Lieberman demanded that a separate, stand-alone “don’t ask” repeal bill be brought forward, and the media glare forced Sen. Reid to capitulate. The stand-alone repeal was brought up for a vote and easily passed with the support of many senators, including Sen. Brown, who had voted against the combined appropriations/repeal bill.
Tonight, Sen. Collins shared that she simply couldn’t, at first, believe what Sen. Reid was doing (and then charged to the podium to protest the maneuver and its foregone conclusion—to no avail). It’s all politics, boys and girls. It’s all politics.
The history of “don’t ask” is full of the treacherous and soul-dead (during the Clinton era, then-Sen. Sam Nunn and Secretary of State Colin Powell stand out). And the heroes, especially the thousands of honorable gay and lesbian service members, many of whom had their careers—and in some instances their actual lives—destroyed. But there were political heroes, too, and Sen. Collins and Sen. Lieberman were at the forefront.
Furthermore. Reflections by commenter “another steve” hit the mark:
The Republicans are terrible, but the Democrats are often duplicitious. Some of the LGBT activists are so caught up in pro-party partisanship that you end up with HRC being silent on the non-movement of ENDA, which I believe could have passed (and if it failed with gender identity, it would most certainly have passed, with some GOP support, as a sexual orientation protection bill).
As for Reid, it is not just inaction. If only. Reid did not want DADT repeal to pass — too controversial, too much of a risk of backlash. But he realized that having failed to do anything about ENDA or DOMA, he would have to do something for the LGBT lobby (not that HRC would mind, but others were starting to make angry observations about what all that gay money and support was actually getting). So Reid devised a brilliant ploy — bring it up tied to a measure that Republicans were clearly going to kill, and then blame the GOP for killing DADT repeal. That way, no DADT repeal to be blamed on Obama and the Democrats, and the LGBT lobby is primed to give Democrats even more money and support for zip in return.
And it ALMOST WORKED. Much of the LGBT media and many Democratic activists were selling the line that Reid TRIED and the GOP killed repeal. It was duplicitious, dishonest, and dreadful, as Miller suggests. Fortunatley, some non-HRC progressives, along with Log Cabin and leaders such as Collins and Lieberman, wouldn’t buy the lie and forced Reid to send out the clean bill, which then (surprise, suprise) easily passed.
It is this sort of mendacity that Miller rails against. And it is the blind partisanship of some on the Democratic side that makes it possible.