View From the Hill
BY Kerry Eleveld
May 02 2009 12:00 AM ET
While I believe the access our community is getting bodes well for LGBT equality in the next four years, it also poses a dilemma. As one movement leader said to me with a bit of trepidation, "We're playing a real inside game right now." What that calls into question is just how hard advocates are pushing either publicly or behind the scenes when the administration appears to be defaulting on its commitment to LGBT rights. The problem with raising holy heck when you're on the inside, of course, is that you live in fear of getting shut out.
From a policy standpoint, on big-ticket items like hate crimes, employment nondiscrimination, and "don't ask, don't tell," the Obama administration's signals have been mixed. President Obama himself notably issued a statement this week urging swift passage of the hate-crimes bill in both the House and the Senate (it never hurts for lawmakers to hear the wishes of a president with 60-plus approval ratings).
But the administration has also seemed to be hedging on some of the heavier lifts like allowing gays who are willing to die for their country the opportunity to do it in full view of their fellow countrymen. Over the past month, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has appeared to consistently be backing away from the administration's pledge to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
While some LGBT leaders privately expressed their disenchantment to administration officials, the first public outcry from an LGBT organization came in the form of a full-page ad placed in Roll Call by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in which executive director Aubrey Sarvis urged Obama to use the defense budget as a vehicle for ending the military's gay ban. That prompted this piece from LGBT activist Joan Garry, a key fund-raiser for Obama's campaign, who took issue with Sarvis's approach.
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