Perhaps the easiest thing about being a gay conservative is that we expect less from our elected leaders than do our left-of-center counterparts. Republican politicians don’t promise us the moon and stars in their campaigns, so we’re not disappointed when they don’t bestow such lofty gifts on our community once elected.
For gay Democrats, however, it’s a different story. They are repeatedly disappointed when their politicians do not follow through on the campaign pledges they make to our community.
In 1992, then-Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton promised to repeal the ban on gays in the military, but just a year later, he backpedaled on that promise. After he clumsily tried to act on that promise in the first few days of his administration, that Democrat realized he might suffer politically should he sign an executive order repealing the ban. At the time, the president’s signature was all that was required to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
Facing a firestorm of opposition from the military and Congress, Clinton relented and signed a supposed compromise policy, the legislation which became known as Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT). Gays could now serve, provided they didn’t self-identify as gay. Now the ban on open service is codified, requiring an act of Congress to be repealed.
This would not be the last time Clinton would sign legislation upsetting gay people who so enthusiastically backed him in 1992.
In the dead of night on September 20, 1996, after receiving the endorsement of the left-leaning gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Democrat signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), allowing one state to bar recognition of same-sex marriages performed in a different state while defining marriage, for the purposes of federal law, as the union of one man and one woman. Although its then-leaders denounced the action, HRC did not rescind its endorsement of the then-Democratic incumbent.
Perhaps with that bit of history in mind, the current Democratic President Barack Obama thought that by currying favor with this bastion of the gay Washington, D.C., establishment, he could silence the growing chorus of criticism from erstwhile gay supporters upset by his failure to act on his campaign promises to repeal those two bills. This past Saturday, the president addressed HRC’s annual dinner in Washington where he reiterated his campaign pledges:
We are moving ahead on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. … We should not be punishing patriotic Americans who have stepped forward to serve this country. We should be celebrating their willingness to show such courage and selflessness on behalf of their fellow citizens, especially when we’re fighting two wars. … And I’ve called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
That may have earned him a standing ovation inside the auditorium, but it did not quiet the criticism outside. Indeed, if anything, the speech only served to increase its volume. Left-of-center lesbian blogger Pam Spaulding took umbrage at the president’s failure to offer a timeline for repeal:
The low expectations I had regarding LGBT policy were unfortunately met on that account. If you’re an activist or citizen looking for timelines, actions, use of the bully pulpit, ANYTHING that would indicate to the community that our president was serious about moving on the laundry list of LGBT issues any time soon, you would call it a fail.