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Gay activists ‘undermining’ repeal of US military gay ban

Jessica Geen July 30, 2009

Gay activists have “undermined” efforts to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, a report has claimed.

According to the Palm Center report, a network of gay and gay-friendly groups “worked to derail” the possibility of a suspension of the ban on gay personnel serving openly in the military.

Citing news in May that President Barack Obama had the power to suspend the ban, the Palm Center said resulting negative media coverage and criticism from gay groups had put the White House on the defensive.

The report, titled A Self-Inflicted Wound: How and Why Gays Give the White House a Free Pass on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ also criticised “misleading and inaccurate claims” on the part of gay campaigners.

Aaron Belkin, Palm Center director and author of the report, said: “Some members of our community have been circulating misleading arguments which ended up as talking points for the president of the United States.

“It is not our job to provide Washington with reasons to continue to discriminate.”

The Palm Center, a research institute at the University of California, claims that focusing exclusively on legislative repeal is flawed and warns of the “consequences” for blocking considering of a two-pronged approach.

The two-pronged approach was to begin with an executive order suspending the ban and then work on legislative repeal afterwards.

The report says immediate legislative repeal is not a “clean solution”, citing issues with trans servicemembers and changes for partners of gay troops, such as housing and death notifications.

It claims: “Those who oppose the two-part strategy, and who prefer an exclusive emphasis on legislative repeal, have mis-diagnosed the political and strategic landscape in several important ways.”

The report hit out at US journalists such as MSNBC host Rachel Maddow for criticising Obama for being slow to act.

Many commentators have drawn parallels with the fight for equal civil rights for blacks, suggesting that if the issue were to be dealt with today, immediate change would be preferable to incremental steps.

Gay rights activists and groups, such as the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Human Rights Campaign have said an executive order temporarily lifting the ban could be overturned by the next president.

However, the Palm Center argues that pressure should be placed on Obama to call a temporary suspension of the ban, saying that once gays in the military are ‘out’, it would be difficult to “put the toothpaste back into the tube” and return to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era. The centre claims that legislative action could follow later.

Before May, many believed the ban could only be overturned with Congressional approval. Palm Center research released that month revealed the president had three legal bases on which to issue an executive order.

The report continued: “Calling for an exclusive emphasis on legislative repeal is perhaps the greatest gift gay rights groups could give the White House. And it’s a slap in the face to service members like Lt. Dan Choi, whose careers are in peril right now.”

“Some members of the gay community have provided Washington with reasons to continue discriminating, and their actions have had the effect of softening the pressure on the White House and allowing the president to again use his pass-the-buck strategy. As a result, momentum has been lost and the inertia that characterised the period before the introduction of the two-part solution is returning.”

More: Americas

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