Perhaps an Executive Order is in Order
President Obama ran for office promising voters who supported and believed strongly in GLBT Civil Rights real action; and many have been disappointed. This isn’t to say that Obama isn’t the most gay-friendly President we’ve had in quite some time: he has appointed the most number of openly gay cabinet officials of all time; beating President Clinton’s record from his TWO terms before he’s even finished his first.
But that still doesn’t explain the lack of action on initiatives that are symbolic of the GLBT Civil Rights struggle, such as Gay Marriage or repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Obama has come out against DADT and promised to end it multiple times, but his actions have made it clear he’s leaving it as an issue for either the courts or congress to decide, which may not spell the most ideal solution.
President Harry Truman faced a similar type of issue when he took office: African-Americans had been serving in segregated troops of the armed forces. Only a few weeks before the 1948 Election Day, Truman made a politically unpopular decision and signed into action the order to integrate our Armed Forces. The Democrats were nervous that many would take this as their cue to vote Dixiecrat (a break-off of the Democratic Party which believed in segregation and states’ rights) and leave the Democrats in the dust. Newspapers (famously) printed “Dewey Defeats Truman” on every front page, only to be proven wrong.
Public opinion in 1948 in favor of integration was way lower than today’s public opinion in favor of eliminating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and allowing gays to openly serve in the military. It was a politically risky move for Truman, sure, but in the end it paid off. So why doesn’t Obama do the same thing? I’m not the first to have brought this up, I’m sure. And many say it’s because he didn’t want to harm the Democrats in the 2010 election – well, the election is over. He has two full years until the next one. If he signed such an Executive Order before the end of 2011, undoubtedly it will have vanished from the forefront of the news media cycle by November 2012. Plus, with public opinion being what it is now, chances are it really wouldn’t hurt Obama that much.
So the question is: Will President Obama take a historical cue card from Truman? Or will he continue to leave this decision up to courts and congress, only voicing his support of eliminating it?