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Posts Tagged ‘Senate’

What DADT Ruling Means

October 12th, 2010 3 comments

Federal judge Virginia Phillips has just issued a permanent (as in, “forever”) injunction against enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Does this really mean that the discharges will stop? Can a lone judge in California really effect a change of this magnitude?

Yes. She just did, and there’s no legal — as opposed to political — reason preventing this step. Her decision on a question of federal law, absent appeal, holds for the entire nation. After reiterating her judgment that the law violates constitutional protections of fundamental rights, free speech, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, the brief order makes clear its reach and effect. The court:

(2) PERMANENTLY ENJOINS Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense, their agents, servants, officers, employees, and attorneys, and all persons acting in participation or concert with them or under their direction or command, from enforcing or applying the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act and implementing regulations, against any person under their jurisdiction or command;

(3) ORDERS Defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Act, or pursuant to 10 U.S.C. § 654 or its implementing regulations, on or prior to the date of this Judgment.

This means what it says. The policy is gone, and even those DADT-based investigations or discharges that are in process are to stop. Immediately.

Before issuing this final ruling, Judge Phillips had solicited input from the Obama Department of Justice about the effect of her proposed injunction. But their arguments about the harm of such a ruling failed to persuade her, so the law is now history, unless the Obama Administration appeals. Even in that case, they would have to ask for and be granted a stay (both of which would be quite likely) for the injunction to  be lifted.

What to do? This is perhaps the worst-case scenario for Obama: If, as expected, he appeals, he gives the LGBT community and disgusted progressive voters another reason to stay home next month.

Should he take advantage of the sixty-day period allowed for appeal, putting off reckoning until after the mid-terms and counting on the lame-duck Senate to pass the repeal measure? Under ordinary circumstances, this approach might have some promise, but not in this case. The problem is that the repeal measure, even if it passes, isn’t a repeal at all, but the result of a compromise “vote-now-repeal-later-(maybe)” approach. (For the repeal to become effective, a host of actors and institutions, apparently including the local Rotary Club, would have to certify that repeal wouldn’t harm military readiness.) Even with this “repeal” law, DADT would remain in effect for the time being, so that the issue of whether to appeal Judge Phillips’s ruling would have to be confronted in any case.

Does it pain me to say that Obama has only himself to blame? To an extent, yes, because I still believe that his deepest instincts are grounded in a basic notion of equality. But too often, those instincts are submerged beneath a cautious political calculus that ends up deferring or defeating the very initiatives he backs. Still no ENDA, no reasonable prospect of DOMA repeal, and now this situation — where even if the Obama DOJ doesn’t appeal, he’ll get, and deserve, only limited and grudging credit.

Well, too bad. That even this flawed measure didn’t get through the Senate is nothing short of appalling, and a sad testament to Obama’s inability to bring his own party to heel (as by slapping down Harry Reid’s parliamentary tricks, which served only to alienate the few moderate Republicans he might otherwise have counted on).

If I’m a gay or lesbian service member, though, I’m not coming out: yet.

Trenchant Observations on Massachusetts and Ball Boys…in Pink

January 19th, 2010 No comments

There are no shortage of analyses on the Massachusetts Senate race, and I want to weigh in with my own observation: Scott Brown won because he’s a hunk in the same televangelist mode as Mitt Romney.

One key difference: Romney would never have posed in the all-together. That’s altogether non-Mormon. The flap didn’t hurt Brown any, though, perhaps because he looked like this:

Scott-Brown-new3

Put aside the unspeakable early 80’s hairstyle and he looks pretty good. But very straight-looking, thanks — in the Massachusetts Senate, Mr. Soon-to-be-Filibuster supported amending the state’s constitution to ban the gay marriages that have been taking place for most of the decade.

I do wonder if Brown’s image could have survived had an image of him in this get-up surfaced:

James Blake meets some of the ball boys and girls who will be working during the tournament.

(That’s American (falling) star James Blake in the middle.) Ball boys in pink? That’s what they’re wearing this year at the Australian Open! They actually look sort of cool when you watch the matches, but they’ve caused quite the controversy.

Marriage Equality: Another Day, Another Defeat

January 7th, 2010 2 comments

This photo, although taken several hours before the New Jersey Senate voted on — and voted down — a bill to allow same-sex couples the simple right to marry, is at once symbolic and oddly poignant:

nj-gay-marriage-defeated.JPG

The poster belongs on the floor, at least until its clear statement of “The American Dream” is realized. The only thing that would state the point more bluntly would be for John Tomicki, who represents the state’s anti-equality forces, to be jumping up and down on it, cackling maniacally. (Oh, and what a sense of humor this guy has! Mugging for the camera with equality supporter Steven Goldstein, Tomicki said that he and Goldstein had a deal with each other: “No kissing!” Don’t worry.)

This outcome was predicted and all-but-inevitable once backers of the bill withdrew it from consideration a couple of weeks ago. But when the Assembly failed to take the bait and consider it first, the Senate was boxed into a “now or never” situation, as incoming Governor Christie would veto any measure that did pass.

Thus concludes (a few days late) the 2009 political season on the issue of  marriage equality, one that started with such promise but — with the exception of D.C. — ended so dismally. Yet every public debate, every chance to bring this message forward, is itself a step towards victory. Opponents have no arguments left, and it’s just a matter of time before the ramparts fall.

There’s much more I could say, but I really do need to come up with a presentation on how the law affects gay and lesbian’s economic relationships and decision-making for tomorrow morning…. I’ll summarize it here within the next few days.