Are The GetEQUAL Actions Successful?


Following yesterday’s action at Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) campaign rally in Los Angeles, GetEQUAL, Lt. Dan Choi and five other gay and lesbian veterans who were discharged under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy (DADT) “handcuffed themselves to the White House fence” this afternoon to demand that the President follow through on his promise to repeal the policy before the end of the year:

CHOI: We are handcuffing ourselves to the White House gates once again to demand that President Obama show leadership on repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ If the President were serious about keeping his promise to repeal this year, he would put the repeal language in his Defense Authorization budget. The President gave us an order at the Human Rights Campaign dinner to keep pressure on him and we will continue to return to the White House, in larger numbers, until the President keeps his promise to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year,” Choi said

It’s hard to say how effective all of this is. On one hand, the actions and the frustration of repeal advocates is certainly understandable. The White House, never very good at dealing with its base whether it be public option advocates or DADT opponents, has started pretending that asking for repeal is the same thing as pushing for one and has done little to advance the cause. DADT activists feel that inserting repeal legislation into this year’s Defense Authorization bill represents the best opportunity for repealing the policy and view the Pentagon’s study as an unnecessary delay tactic. GetEQUAL, Dan Choi and their allies hope that these kinds of actions bring new attention to DADT and pressure the administration to act before its too late.

But others feel that spectacular pronouncements of civil disobedience will alienate the military and the moderate lawmakers whose support is so necessary to pass repeal legislation. A prolonged fight, in other words won’t win over the likes of Jim Webb or Ben Nelson, if anything it may give them pause and make them triple guess their support. Military leaders like Gates, who are generally supportive of repealing the policy, but have repeatedly argued that Congress should not move legislation until a full review is complete, may also be offended by these antics.

Choi and GetEQAUL are trying to force the administration to move the debate forward, instead of simply sitting back and waiting for studies, and that goal is certainly is admirable. It’s way past time for Obama to throw his support behind Lieberman’s repeal measure in the Senate, since it includes language that codifies the Pentagon review process, and recommit to repealing the policy. But whether yelling at him is a better approach than engaging in traditional shoe leather lobbying and organizing, remains to be seen.