A week ago, Kerry Eleveld interviewed Pres. Obama in the Advocate.
President Obama tells The Advocate the Pentagon is “prepared to implement” repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and it will take months not years. He also says he’s “wrestling” with the issue of marriage equality.
By Kerry Eleveld
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is taking the implementation manual for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with him on vacation, President Obama told The Advocate during a wide-ranging interview late Tuesday afternoon — the first one-on-one interview of his presidency with an LGBT news outlet.
“My strong sense is [implementation] is a matter of months,” Obama said from the Oval Office. “Absolutely not years.”
The president added that he has also broached the topic with Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, and that “he’s going to make it work.” Amos has been the most outspoken critic of repeal among the military’s service chiefs.
Obama also said that he is “incredibly proud” of following through on repealing the 1993 law and recalled a pledge he made to a service member while working a rope line in Afghanistan just a few weeks ago.
“A young woman in uniform was shaking my hand — it was a big crowd — she hugged me and she whispered in my ear, ‘Get ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ done.’ And I said to her, ‘I promise you I will.’”
On the question of marriage equality, the president said his “attitudes are evolving.”
“Like a lot of people, I’m wrestling with this,” he said. “I’ve wrestled with the fact that marriage traditionally has had a different connotation. But I also have a lot of very close friends who are married gay or lesbian couples.”
The president also signaled that he and his lawyers are reviewing “a range of options” when it comes to the administration’s responsibility to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, especially since repealing it over the next two years will be a nonstarter with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“I have a whole bunch of really smart lawyers who are looking at a whole range of options. My preference wherever possible is to get things done legislatively,” Obama said, drawing a comparison with repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“That may not be possible in DOMA’s case,” he added. “That’s something that I think we have to strategize on over the next several months.”
There’s more–a lot more. I enjoyed reading it, partly because it’s the first time an officially queer news outlet has had a one-on-one with El Presidente, and partly for the back-and-forth between Obama (who is, y’know, President, and used to striking awe into the hearts of
his subjects citizens) and Eleveld (who happily tramples all over him here and there in her eagerness to ask questions).
I’ve been saying for a while that the repeal of DADT would be the crack in the dam holding back LGBTQIA (quiltbag) inequality. When queer folk are dying openly alongside their straight brothers and sisters in arms, their partners will demand, and get, spousal benefits: pension, immigration, health and so on. Once that happens, civilians will start demanding, and the law requiring, parity.
The fly in this ointment is, of course, a Republican-controlled House and its extremist contingent. It’s going to be tough to get legislative solutions with right-wingers shouting down sense. This means some action will occur in the courts.
Sometimes court solutions work out, sometimes they don’t. Often, they lead to long-lasting confrontation and bitterness. (Think about abortion and bussing.)
So my hope is that the Republican establishment got more of a fright this November than the Democrats did. (If I’d been a Republican, I would have been incensed at the loss of safe seats as a result of Tea Party idiocies.) If this is the case then there might actually be some bipartisan work going on in the Senate. Might.
So let’s all click our heels three times and wish for the strong smooth and inexorable march towards quiltbag equality–one way or another. And let’s wish particularly strongly for the T in the quiltbag. Trans people, as Cheryl Morgan points out, are still a long way from getting the basic protections they need.
It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world. But I’m currently optimistic about it settling down, settling out, in all the right ways.