Andrew Sullivan asks...
The WaPo is right about this: the president is not responsible for not legislating something; and everything the gay rights movement wants is a legislative act right now. So aim the pressure at the appropriate people. Why does Nancy Pelosi believe the US should still be firing soldiers solely because they're gay? Has anyone put her on the spot about that lately?
True: most of the promises the president made to the gay community require action by Congress. Which is why, I think, the president's critics—ahem—hammer away at DADT. The president isn't in a position to do anything meaningful about DOMA or ENDA or hate crimes. Congress has to make those things happen (and Congress is close to sending hate crimes legislation to the president's desk); all the president can do is put pressure on Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. But while the president can't extend federal recognition to married same-sex couples or ban workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians by fiat, he can do something about DADT. As commander-in-chief he has the authority to halt enforcement of DADT. Seventy-six members of Congress asked him to do back in June.
Putting an end to DADT once and for all does require a legislative act. True. But suspending its enforcement would put pressure on Congress to do get off its butt and pass that legislation. It would, as I wrote on Saturday, shift DADT off the president's much-cited plate and slap it down on Congress's. Since a future president could reverse Obama's stop-loss order and order military to resume tossing out gays and lesbians, the president would be lighting a fire under Nancy and Harry's butts. We should be asking Nancy Pelosi about DADT too. But Obama really has the ability to put her on the spot about DADT.
Halting the discharge of gay servicemembers—discharged the rate of two a day since Obama took office—is something Obama can do right now. Which is why it looms so large in the debate about the promises he made to the gay community and his failure, so far, to deliver on them or move to deliver on any them. If Obama won't take the actions he can take now, if he refuses to make the changes that are within his power, it raises suspicions about his sincerity. Taking the actions he can take now—on DADT and on finally lifting the HIV Travel Ban—would demonstrate that he intends to act on the promises he made to the gay community. It would prove that he's acting in good faith, and that he can deliver more than lovely speeches.