Barack Obama has tried to walk a fine line between talking LGBT rights and not doing much about it, and some gays and lesbians have given him a pass on not going on the offense on their behalf during a time of two wars and a comatose economy.
But the dwindling LGBT support the president has is probably about to end: It’s one thing to do little to advance justice; it’s another thing altogether to actively fight in court against the recent legal advances towards equality for LGBT Americans.
Take yesterday’s order from U.S. Federal Judge Virginia Philips, which says that gays can start being out in the military — without fear of being discharged — as early as, like, today.
Will the administration appeal this ruling for equality? No one knows yet, but there’s enough of a threat of that happening that our senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer (joined by 20 others) are begging Attorney General Eric Holder not to. Hell, even the Pentagon is thinking of formally asking Holder not to appeal!
Some (though certainly not all) gay progressives may have given the president a little leeway when it came to being slightly less than the “fierce advocate of equality for gay and lesbian Americans” he claims to be.
Why would Gillibrand, Schumer, and the military think that Obama would even want to appeal this ruling that not only promotes justice (fulfilling his role as the executive defender of the Constitution), but which also advances the cause of some of his biggest political supporters (fulfilling his role as the head of the Democratic Party, which is facing a potential shellacking in just a few weeks)? Why wouldn’t he take this easy out from the courts, which lets him off the hook?
Because his administration’s record is obvious. Just hours before Philips’s order, the Department of Justice announced that it was appealing a court case that said the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional. And, of course, the administration announced it would appeal Philips’s original judgment, before she ordered the immediate halt of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Gay and lesbian Americans never thought the president needed to come “out” in the traditional sense. Many have given up on his spending political capital to come out on their behalf. But they certainly want to see Obama take this very easy out to do the right thing, by simply not appealing their court-ordered progress.