Obama Needs to End Silence on Biggest Civil Rights Move of Our Time

There is no excuse at all -- none -- for the White House to allow the bigotry and harassment of gays and lesbians in the armed forces to stand. Gays populate the armed services now.
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Barack Obama has appointed a hyperactive director of faith-based initiatives, Josh DuBois, and sees little problem continuing the blurring of church and state that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton initiated in their terms. I remain very uncomfortable with evangelicals and other preachers -- many of whom have narrow and bigoted views of America's 21st century civil rights challenges.

That said, I realize that faith-based initiatives are here and part of the scene. I get it.

But there needs to be equal time for some of the victims of this cozy relationship between the oval office and anti-gay religious adherents.

Same sex marriages are now a real part of the scene too -- something allowed in the enormous state of California for a short time until the day that Barack Obama himself was elected nationally and won the California vote.

Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and Iowa are the five leading states that endorse and provide for same sex marriages. New York and Washington DC (at least for 30 days) recognize these marriages. And New Hampshire is likely to be the sixth state to provide for same sex marriages.

Eventually, California will be back in the same sex marriage column.

This is happening as the weeks unfold -- and President Barack Obama has said NOTHING.

Yesterday, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs had an exchange with ABC's Jake Tapper:

"No, I think the president's position on same-sex marriage is -- has been talked about and discussed," Gibbs curtly replied.

"He opposes same-sex marriage?" Tapper asked.

"He supports civil unions," Gibbs said, not really answering the question.

Obama is basically ducking the issue for the time being -- voting the proverbial "present" without indicating support or opposition as he basks in Oval Office power -- present, there, watching -- but doing nothing.

For him, it's a states rights issue -- not a civil rights issue at the federal level.

I can't quite believe that our first African-American President is sitting this one out -- but I do get the politics of it, to a point. What I don't get is his withdrawal from other key gay community issues.

What is directly in Obama's purview -- as not only a federal issue but one directly linked to the office he holds -- is the "don't ask, don't tell" order regarding discrimination against gays in the US military. Obama promised during his campaign to end this hypocrisy that leads to the expulsion of a full brigade a year from the armed services. Those thrown out are qualified men and women who are replaced in part by those needing criminal file "moral waivers."

In fact, Aaron Belkin points out that Obama is about to preside as Commander-in-Chief over his national security bureacracy's first firing of a gay Arab linguist.

Obama's position of total silence on this fast and historic expansion of gay marriage rights could be offset if he finally asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to conduct a new impact study of what gays in the military (and they are in the military if anyone cared to look -- in very, very large numbers) would do to "morale."

General Colin Powell has said that it is time to review this issue -- and is keeping his powder dry until such a review by the Joint Chiefs is done. Former Senator Sam Nunn -- who fired two of his own personal national security policy staff in the 1990s for being gay -- has also said that "times have changed" and that it is time to review the policy.

And yet... what did President Obama do?

As John Aravosis recently shared, Obama's transparent presidency significantly weakend the Don't Ask/Don't Tell commitment and policy position from the White House website.

This is unacceptable. I don't like but do understand the internal debate inside the White House on the issue of "civil union" vs. "marriages". Obama's view is now behind the times as many states leap frog forward into the 21st century in a way that Obama is not doing.

But there is no excuse at all -- none -- for allowing the bigotry and harassment of gays and lesbians in the armed forces to stand. Gays populate the armed services now.

Obama's silence is disturbing and wrong. While he may not be able for political reasons to move on marriages, to do nothing on the military front -- which is in his portfolio -- deserves serious criticism.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note

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