10.11.09

Obama's Gay Dodge

The gay community should stop rewarding President Obama's pretty speeches—like his address this weekend to the Human Rights Campaign—and demand action on Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

This weekend, thousands gathered for a march at the White House where the gay community demanded equal rights. On Saturday night, President Obama addressed the largest gay-rights group and promised to end the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military, emphasizing that his commitment to achieving equal rights was “unwavering.” The support he received from the crowd was overwhelming.

Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, I suspect it could be said that there is no homophobia in foxholes either.

But my response to this speech and my message to the gay community is this: Stop rewarding the president’s speeches. Because for me, that’s all it is—pretty words delivered by a beautiful orator.

Obama offered no timeline for phasing out this policy and, as usual, no real specifics. But the president verbalized his commitment to ending it—which is not insignificant. Unfortunately, I am a bottom line type of girl and I see no bottom line here. During the election, Obama pledged that the very first thing he would do as president would be to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Although I thought it was an ambitious promise, I believed him. It's now almost a year into his presidency and other than making speeches, nothing has happened.

Let me tell you a little something about what I know about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: I have two brothers serving in the military and as far as I’m concerned, when an Arabic translator is kicked out of the military for being gay, it quite literally makes my brothers and our troops less safe. For me, Don't Ask, Don't Tell isn't just an equality issue. It is also a national-security issue.

This is the point we should be emphasizing for those who refuse to see Don’t Ask Don’t Tell opposition as a human-rights campaign. We need to bring the issue back to the security of our country both overseas and at home. Every soldier in our armed forces is serving his or her country in the most admirable way an American can, and we should be able to respect them, by not asking them to hide their sexual orientation.

Jacob Bernstein on Obama’s HRC speechNow, I cannot speak for my brothers, but I know many men and women who serve in the military. Let’s give them more credit. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, I suspect it could be said that there is no homophobia in foxholes either. I find it hard to imagine that when a soldier is in a Humvee fighting terrorist insurgents, that the thing on his mind is who his fellow soldier chooses to sleep with when he’s off duty.

What’s more, the gay community can no longer place all the blame of marriage equality and Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Republicans. Yes, the Republican Party has a long way to go. But right now, we have a Democratic president and a Congress with a Democratic majority. The Republican Party can no longer be the only scapegoat for the arrested development of gay rights in this country. This is a president who made promises to the gay community—hold him responsible.

Of all the things I worry about in my life, my country's national security is by far at the forefront. I am a daughter of a famous military hero and the sister of two soldiers. Mr. President, Don't Ask, Don't Tell makes my family and this country less safe. Put a timeline on repealing it, stop making speeches, and show me the bottom line.

Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the Web site mccainblogette.com.