Election 2012: Will DADT Repeal be Undone

By Matt Brauer

With the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary in the rear view mirror, Service members again find themselves at the center of national debates over the wars, military spending, and an issue we thought was a done deal: the repeal of DADT. While Sept. 20 was a watershed mark for civil rights, it is, by no means, a settled matter in the eyes of social conservatives. In fact, many elected officials and influential Tea Party activists favor re-enacting the old policy. For example, William Temple, chairman of the Founding Fathers Tea Party, warned in May 2011 of the “effeminization” of the military and tied reinstatement of DADT to last year’s debt ceiling fight.

While the booing of a gay Soldier at a recent debate drew similar national attention, it did expose some Republicans as out-of-step on a policy change nearly 80 percent of Americans supported. Moreover, this incident also obscures a more nuanced reading of the GOP, particularly the presidential field on this issue. Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney favors open LGBT service (Surprise! He opposed it prior to repeal). And libertarian firebrand Ron Paul actually voted to repeal DADT in the house. However, their rivals for the GOP nod, Texas governor Rick Perry, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum, all favor reinstating the old policy.

While President Obama, a large a large majority of congressional Democrats, and some fair-minded Republicans championed open service, it is far from certain that they will hold both the White House and Senate, or take back the House. The Cook Political Report, which rates House and Senate races nationwide, has pointed out that redistricting due to the 2010 census has largely been a wash: of 33 redistricting maps completed as of January, reapportionment has been zero sum for both parties. More ominously, Democrats are defending 23 Senate seats and the Republicans only 10. Even the Senate race in Hawaii, long a Democratic stronghold, is a toss up this year. Congress very much remains anyone’s to take.

With the state of the race in flux and most elected Republicans against open service, the question begs to be asked: Will the next Republican president; backed by rowdy Congressional Tea Partiers reinstate DADT? It’s hard to say at this point who will control Congress, but most pundits say Democrats are facing an uphill battle to keep the White House and Senate. I already hear my Republican friends piping up: “Wait! The Tea Party and the GOP are not the same thing!” True, the Tea Party is far to the right of most Americans (and Republicans), but the reality is Speaker Boehner needs to herd Tea Party cats for important votes on other issues, and it’s possible he may have to give them more on social issues if Democrats pick up seats in November.

One might take solace in the idea that so long as there are 41 anti-DADT votes in the Senate; we should be ok. But the Democrats are famous for their lack of cohesion when in the minority (or the majority) so any DADT-reinstatement measure is likely to be horse-traded for other Democratic priorities like the yearly “doc fix” for Medicare, which covers reimbursement rates for doctors. Besides that, even a relatively moderate Republican like Romney might be tempted to reinstate the policy to satisfy a right wing clamoring for a reversal of what they see as a radical social experiment, as Sen. Santorum puts it.

Whether it’s Democrats or Republicans in power, one thing is for sure: open LGBT service in the military is still in contention by social conservatives eager to roll back equality. It’s up to each of us to stay informed and stay engaged as voters in a post-repeal era to make sure the gains of today are not tomorrow’s fallback. Now is the time to get engaged in primary elections where you live to ensure candidates who support open service make it to the general election.  VOTE!

About Matt Brauer

Matt Brauer is an Army Reserve captain who most recently served with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and lives in San Francisco, Calif. He currently does political consulting, freelance writing and attends graduate school. Brauer serves as the OutServe Magazine blog political correspondent.

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  1. Frank Sellers
    February 7, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    Santorum (he’s not a senator any more, thank God, nor is Gingrich any longer speaker of the House) referred to the repeal of DADT as “social engineering” but any time you don’t allow everyone to participate in something and lock out targeted would-bes you’re “engineering” the membership by tinkering with the admission policy. Likewise, Santorum said that sex and sexual preference should not be an issue in the military. Yet, conservatives have always made it an issue by barring anyone who was known to be – or even rumored to be – gay.

    Of course logic has little to do with bigotry, and any attempt on Santorum or Gingrich’s part – or anyone else’s – is really an exercise in sugar-coating prejudice based on irrational fear-mongering. They know very well that their arguments will never hold up in a forensics debate without religious justification, but they don’t care – that’s why they’re bigots. They don’t need to prove their views are just and fair; they know they’re not, but the simply do not care. You will never convince hard-core haters like these two. Scratch that: I believe Santorum, who’s a loony zealot (redundant, I know) in his black little heart, truly hates gay men and lesbians. He doesn’t just hate us, he despises and loathes us and if he could have his way he’d bypass concentration camps and have us all arrested and executed at the earliest convenience. No one should underestimate just how nuts this guy is and if he got his hand on true power he wouldn’t hesitate to start mass arrests as soon as he could make it legal. Don’t forget that everything Hitler did was perfectly legal because he has control of all three branches of the government. George W. Bush showed us all how that can be done again if a president has a blank check legislature and compliant judiciary at his disposal. Gingrich, on the other hand, is much more of a pragmatic political opportunist. Although his substantial ego usually does him in by separating his brain from his mouth, his opinion on some social issues blows whichever way the public opinion wafts the wind, as well as whoever’s putting the most money in his coffers. (The fact that his sister’s a lesbian is irrelevant, by the way, so that argument would never work with him.) I don’t think either bigot has a prayer in winning the nomination, but one of them might be selected as the VP running-mate in order to pull in those far right-wing votes during the general election.

    For anyone not wanting a November victory for the Republicans and a very possible reinstatement of DADT there are two primary objectives. The first is the most obvious one Matt Brauer ends his commentary with: VOTE!

    The second goal, however, will a bit more work and more balls (sorry for the obviously sexist colloquialism): win over the hearts of the conservative voters out there by discussing this issue directly with them. In some cases it might mean coming out, which can be very difficult, but sitting silently by and letting the family bigot pontificate on and on about the evil of homosexuality is tacit agreement and approval of the sewage spewing from their mouths. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that evil thrives when good people say nothing. If everyone who thinks homosexuality is a perversion and gay men and lesbians should be prevented from living a full life knew just one person they love and/or respect, they’d have a lot of soul-searching to do. You can’t always change everyone’s mind even when they know about you (my own father never had an issue with my sexual orientation, but he voted Republican to his dying day) but you will definitely change a few minds.

    My mother, like many people, does not like to discuss politics very much, especially with anyone who disagrees with her. “Never discuss politics or religion,” she always says. That’s fine and even appropriate in most social settings. But as I pointed out to her recently, if no one ever discussed politics or religion except the politicians and clergy, she would never have been able to pursue a career, I would have been burned at the stake if my sexuality had been discovered, and everyone would still be forced to accept that the sun and planets and all the stars revolved around the earth. (The stars would be very easy to see, by the way, because there’d be no electric lights flooding them out in the night sky.)

    I believe it is very important to let your political views and sexual orientation be known to your close family members and closest friends. These are the most important people in your life and they will never know the true “you” if they don’t know you’re gay. Of course you have to be reasonablly sure they won’t reject you outright, which still happens, but sometimes that’s worth the risk, too. It still makes them think, even if it doesn’t change their vote.

  2. David
    February 6, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    Romney has flip flopped on so many issues, I’m not surprised both Jason Cabot and Matt have differing citations on the same thing. Last I saw, Romney is not in favor of reinstating DADT.

  3. Jason Cabot
    January 31, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    Not sure where you got the idea that Romney “favors open LGBT service” as this is absolutely false. Romney has said several times that he would reinstate DADT if given the opportunity, see e.g. http://equalitymatters.org/emtv/201106140007 . And just because he has more recently said that he probably wouldn’t be able to overturn it doesn’t mean he “favors open LGBT service”.

    Also, not sure where you get the idea that democratic senators would vote to reinstate DADT in exchange for concessions on other ideas, but that’s ludicrous. Every single democratic senator and an additional six republican senators voted to repeal DADT. Where is the “lack of cohesion” on this issue in the democratic camp? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/18/dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal_5_n_798636.html

    You need to do a little more research before you publish nonsense.

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