Obama still promising change, but keeping equality on the back-burner...or is he?...
By Brad Friedman on 10/12/2009, 9:39pm PT  

Given that Obama ran on ending "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and repealing the "Defense of Marriage Act," those who believe in equal justice under the law --- as per the Constitution --- are justifiably none too happy about the fact that he hasn't gotten around to doing either yet.

He did give a rousing speech to the Human Rights Campaign over the weekend, however, re-promising to do all of the above, even if he failed to give a timetable for either of them.

Both DADT and DOMA are federal law, so he can't just change them unitarily over night....

On the DOMA, other than using his considerable bully pulpit to push Congress along, there doesn't seem much he can do on his own. But then, there are all the other things --- health care, climate change --- sucking the oxygen out of that pulpit for the moment, even though equal justice under the law for an enormous section of our populace seems as if it arguably should stand side-by-side with the above on that pulpit.

But in the case of DADT, he can sign a stop-loss Executive Order directing that the policy no longer be enforced, particularly, as Dan Savage notes in the MSNBC video below, since the military continues to eject two patriotic, and much-needed, enlisted men and women each day that it's still enforced.

Obama has made the argument that he wants to change the law itself on DADT, which would require both houses of Congress to repeal the act, as a more permanent way to stop this outrageous, absurd, un-American, and self-defeating policy.

So allow me to argue in his favor for the moment (as rare as that's become around here), by offering two points, after which I'm interested in your thoughts on this:

1) The Bush Administration's use of selective enforcement of laws, and signing statements to quietly declare it in many cases, under the "Theory of the Unitary Executive," was an abomination to the U.S. Constitution. If Obama were to sign a stop-loss order, temporarily repealing DADT by ordering that it not be enforced, wouldn't he be doing the same thing we all so despised when Bush did it?

2) Obama's argued that changing the law itself is a much more permanent way to assure that it stays changed, and can't easily be undone by a future President. To that end, doesn't not changing the policy by Presidential fiat keep the heat under Congress to pass the law that he'd need to sign to end this absurdity once and for all? It seems to me that if an Executive Order is signed it'll put the issue even farther onto a Congressional back-burner, and perhaps even to the point where the law won't be repealed at all before it becomes too late to do so, for example, in the event of a less equality-friendly Congress or President in the foreseeable future.

I appreciate that the above may happen anyway, the longer that Congress --- and he --- dally on this matter. But still, it seems that keeping the pressure on to end DADT, and do it properly, by law, rather than deflate the momentum vis-a-vis an Executive Order, makes some sense here. It's an ugly, base political consideration, but we currently live in a very ugly, base political world. I'd be open to your thoughts, of course, where I may be missing something here.

This evening's MSNBC discussion on the matter, between Laurence O'Donnell and Dan Savage, follows below...