A scandalous report surfaced earlier this month claiming HRC’s Joe Solmonese was advising the Obama administration to hold off on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to make room for more “doable” gay legislation, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The allegations had Solmonese on the defensive. The HRC director insisted he never had a secret plan with the White House — because if he did, that would make him a turncoat on gay rights, placing the priorities of one group ahead of others. (It wouldn’t have been the first time HRC turned its back on some GLBTs; it advocated a non-trans-inclusive ENDA at one point.) But a new report, with new sources, says Solmonese lied to us, and that he did indeed tell Democrats to wait on DADT. Who’s telling the truth?
HRC will likely stand by its claim that it didn’t tell the Obama administration to push ahead on one piece of legislation while ignoring another. But the military newspaper Stars & Stripes on Monday reported such a deal was (and is) in place.
An official with the House Democratic leadership said the House is committed to repealing “don’t ask” but has agreed with civil rights groups to put new hate crime legislation and a workplace nondiscrimination bill on the legislative calendar before taking up the military issue.
White House officials declined comment on their plans, and on whether the president will send his own “don’t ask” legislation to Capitol Hill.
Perhaps hoping to avoid criticism the first time around, Solmonese last week penned a strongly worded letter to the White House demanding action. Too bad HRC returned quickly to Obama’s camp and applauded the president’s barely identifiable efforts on gay rights.
But even if HRC isn’t telling Democrats to punt on DADT, it’s a sham to think we’ll see any real action. As Queerty shared last week, everybody in a position to enact change is pointing the finger about who needs to make the first move to repeal the policy.
The White House says it needs legislators to act; the Senate says the House needs to make a move; and the House says it’s the White House that needs to do something. Just listen to this game of hot potato:
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that lawmakers are waiting on a legislative proposal from the White House before moving on the issue, saying they need “presidential leadership and direction” on how to approach a repeal.
The House of Representatives has had a bill to overturn the law pending since March, but no hearings have been scheduled on the measure. Bill sponsor Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., collected 147 co-sponsors for the legislation but publicly said she wouldn’t push for passage without support from the president.
And if this daisy chain ends up in the hands of the White House, well, expect zero progress. S&S:
White House spokesmen have declined to name any of the lawmakers or military officials with whom Obama has discussed the issue, other than Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.
On Thursday, Gates said the Defense Department position is clear: Congress must act first on “don’t ask” before service leaders will make any changes.
“Until the law is changed, our ability to change the policy is extremely limited, if not nonexistent,” he said.
(And don’t get us started on Obama enabling same-sex benefits for federal employees, but all but prohibiting gay servicemembers from taking advantage, since applying for benefits would violate DADT.)
All of which leaves us in a precarious situation: NOBODY IS DOING SHIT ABOUT DON’T ASK DON’T TELL. Not the White House, not legislators, not the Pentagon, and not our gay rights groups. If the allegations against HRC are true, it means Solmonese is actively working against repealing DADT. And even the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, one of the most critical voices of Obama’s DADT inaction, still plans on supporting the DNC’s gay fundraiser.
It’s an embarrassment of riches — where the currency is ineptitude.