When it comes to the ban on gays in the military, Congressman Dave Reichert, who represents the 8th District southeast of Lake Washington, will probably say something like this: "I voted for the bill to repeal it."
But don't be fooled if that happens. While Reichert voted with the House of Representatives to approve a military spending bill on May 27—which includes an amendment to allow repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT)—he voted earlier that day to oppose the amendment itself. Reichert followed up his vote with a statement: "I am not suggesting homosexuals should not be able to serve openly in the military." He argues that before gays are allowed in the armed forces—something he says he supports but voted against—the issue needs more study, which, incidentally, is what the amendment requires. Reichert's spokespeople wouldn't comment directly.
"I think it shows a record of hypocrisy and blatant politicking," says Scott Whiteaker, a spokesman for the campaign of Suzan DelBene, a Democrat challenging Reichert this year. "Does he have the intellectual honesty to tell people that he voted against the amendment but for the bill?"
Gay-rights advocates aren't confused about Reichert's stance, and they want to turn it against him in his upcoming bid for reelection.
"We always believed he was against gay rights," says Josh Friedes, executive director of Equal Rights Washington (ERW). "If he won't support us on something as simple as DADT," Friedes says, "it bodes poorly for our ability to work with him in the future to end [the Defense of Marriage Act], which is really the vote where the 8th District will be very important."
ERW, the largest gay-rights group in the state, is prepared to reverse its practice of not making endorsements in federal races. Instead, Friedes says, it may endorse DelBene this year.
"This was such an easy vote for Reichert, because overwhelmingly 70 to 80 percent of Americans support the repeal of DADT, and the 8th District is more socially liberal than most of America," Friedes says. "This was not only a vote against the gay community, but a vote against his own district."
The bill is now before the Senate, where Republicans are threatening a filibuster to block the DADT repeal.
But politicking on the issue is calculated on both sides. While Democrats will, no doubt, tell their gay base that they voted to repeal the ban, they will also likely tell moderates that they voted to study the repeal (a required step before the repeal kicks in). And when would the Pentagon complete that study? December, right after the midterm elections.