Remember the State of the Union address, way back in January? Back before the ground zero mosque and the Pakistan floods and Shirley Sherrod and the Gulf Coast oil spill and that Icelandic volcano and the winter Olympics? What was that thing Barack Obama promised?
“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”
Oh right! Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell! Well, it’s September now, we’re most of the way through the calendar year and with midterms coming up there’s only a little legislative time left. How did that whole repeal thing go?
The repeal is tacked on as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011, a yearly bill that budgets the Department of Defense. The House passed the DoD budget, amendment included, in May, but the senate has yet to move.
Now, advocates are scrambling to lobby senators to vote on it—especially Harry Reid, who as senate majority leader has to call for a vote. A Reid spokesperson told The Advocate that the bill is “on the list of things we would like to do in the next few weeks,” but supporters aren’t willing to leave this one up to chance. According to The Blade, Servicemembers United, a gay veterans organization, has designated Thursday, Sept. 16 as a lobbying day, hoping to get the senate to take up the bill the week after.
The SU lobbyists say they plan to target several moderate Democrats, including Jim Webb and Mark Warner of Virginia, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.
Everyone agrees the repeal is most likely to pass before the November elections.
“I think chances are pretty good that we’ll get that through to fruition if Sen. Reid brings it to the floor for a vote before they recess for election season,” [SU executive director Alex] Nicholson said. “If he doesn’t, I don’t know what to think. I sort of throw my hands up in the air at that point at that and say, ‘Let’s wait and see,’ because anything could happen.”
An anonymous politico in the Advocate was more worried.
The source wagered that if the Senate floor vote does not take place before the midterms, the defense funding bill would have a “50-50” shot of passing before the end of this Congress. If it is not finalized by year’s end, the repeal effort will die.
Jason Mazzone over at Balkinization is downright pessimistic.
[T]he full Senate, which was expected to consider the repeal measure over the summer, has not yet taken it up and Republicans have threatened a filibuster when and if the Senate does. … If, as expected, Republicans in November gain control of the House and gain seats also in the Senate, repeal of DADT in the next two years is extremely unlikely.
However, his next prediction, in which he assumes appeals on the Prop. 8 ruling and DOMA are reversed, is a little too far-fetched.
We have, then, a remarkable possibility. Within the next two years, federal appellate courts hold that a ban on same-sex marriage does not violate the Constitution and uphold the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama (who has said he opposes same-sex marriage) loses reelection in 2012. As a consolation prize, Congress repeals DADT and a Republican president signs the repeal into law.
Although the rulings reversals seem unlikely, Obama losing in 2012 is not, but the last sentence is pure hogwash. There are no consolation prizes in politics.
Bonus! Maybe Congress won’t have to repeal it. A U.S. District judge in California yesterday ruled DADT unconstitutional, saying it violated the First Amendment rights of gay men and women and has a “direct and deleterious effect” on the military. The judge will file an immediate injunction preventing the military from discharging soldiers on such grounds. The suit was brought by the Log Cabin Republicans. The Department of Justice is still arguing that this is a decision for Congress, not the courts, so we’ll see how this plays out in the coming days.