Obama told the emotional story of Lloyd Corwin, a member of Patton's third army who was injured during the Battle of the Bulge. Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the slope of an icy ravine and was left to die. But one soldier scaled down the icy slope and risked his own life amidst the gunfire all in an attempt to save his friend. That man was Andy Lee, and four decades after the war, he admitted to Corwin that he was gay. Corwin didn't find that revelation important, Obama said.
I think Obama and Reid and (eesh) Lieberman deserve shitloads of credit for getting us here, for getting this done, for the change that begins today. Professional lefties, bloggers, and activists—from the mainstream groups like SLDN to the folks outside the White House chaining themselves to the fence—took issue with the pace and strategy, and had serious and justified doubts about the actual commitment of the Obama administration to getting this done this year.
But it's done now, and that's what matters, and it's done thanks to the efforts of all involved—from the man in the Oval Office to the man chained to the fence outside it. And anyone who argues that there was nothing to complain or chain-yourself-to-a-fence about because this was the plan all along—to pass the DADT repeal in a lame-duck session, at the last possible moment, with soldiers being discharged at the rate of two a day on Obama's watch, with successful lawsuits were bearing down on the administration and the Pentagon, with Obama's DOJ aggressively defending DADT at every step, and to seriously alienate gay and lesbian voters (and donors) in the run-up to the mid-term elections—shouldn't be taken seriously.
"This" was not the plan all along. This was how it got done, and it got done because the White House realized it had to get done. And it had to get done because an important and increasingly powerful, impatient, and vocal part of the Democratic base made it clear that there were be consequences if it didn't get done. And, yes, the Obama administration gets credit for laying the groundwork for this, for conducting the study, for working on and with the Pentagon. (The White House also deserves credit for the class it demonstrated today by inviting its fiercest and loudest critics to this morning's signing ceremony: Dan Choi, Robin McGehee, Joe and John from Americablog, folks from SLDN and Log Cabin Republicans—and, yes, even me, although I couldn't attend.)
Also deserving of a big chunk of the credit: straight liberals and progressives who've come to view gay rights as important—as a matter of justice—even though anti-gay discrimination doesn't directly impact them. As Atrios put last week...
One thing that makes me feel good is how united the online left appears to be about the importance of DADT repeal. It's not something which impacts most of us, and something which only directly impacts a small minority of an already fairly small minority, but the obvious injustice of DADT seems to resonate nonetheless. When I started blogging I'd say people were less united on gay rights issues generally, that more people didn't see them as being particularly important, and were frightened that such things would repel voters who were afraid of the gay. There's much greater unanimity that equality is important.
And I say "change that begins today" because...
The repeal does not immediately put a stop to “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Mr. Obama must still certify that changing the law to allow homosexual and bisexual men and women to serve openly in all branches of the military will not harm readiness, as must Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mullen, before the military can implement the new law. But the secretary and the admiral have backed Mr. Obama, who said ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a topic of his first meeting with the men. He praised Mr. Gates for his courage; Admiral Mullen, who was on stage with the president during the signing ceremony here, received a standing ovation.
Yes, we did sign DADT repeal legislation this morning. No, we didn't end DADT. That remains to be done.
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