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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Thousand Times, No!

It is clear why the Republican Party has diminished to the extent it has. Even when they had bad ideas (which is most of the time) they at least had ideas!

Now, shell-shocked by two consecutive disasterous election cycles, they are floundering, leaderless and lost; their main playbook consists of the unpatriotic hope for President Obama to fail (Limbaugh, Jindal and the like) and just saying "no" to everything, regardless of merit. The "Party of No" indeed.

No to the stimulus. No to the bailouts. No to Obama's budget. No to common sense.

Alternatives? Hmm. No!

Yesterday, the GOP was to roll out an alternative budget. April Fools Day showed up a week early. Sorry, no numbers, just a "blueprint." The "deer in the headlights" look of Rep. John Boehner when asked by a correspondent from the conservative National Review where the details were was telling. The confused, irritated and vapid reponse by Boehner symbolized exactly the state of the GOP.

A promised alternative budget with no numbers, projections, trends, charts is incredible. Just typical GOP ideological bunk about smaller government: tax cuts, deficits, etc. Except for the tax cuts for the wealthy, these principles were no-shows over the past eight years.

As long as they continue to become a laughing stock, with these PR snafus, Joe the Plumber positing on economic policy, and with Michael Steele at the helm of the RNC, the GOP will remain the Party of No-- to voters.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Window of Opportunity

As the GOP reels, the time to secure LGBT rights is sooner rather than later.

By Steve Charing

Much has been debated recently among LGBT activists regarding the timing of pro-LGBT initiatives that can be undertaken by the Democratic-controlled Congress and an ostensibly gay-friendly president.

Should President Barack Obama expend political capital now, while he’s popular, to pursue key LGBT legislation? Or, should he defer these bold, challenging moves until he accumulates a larger cache of IOUs?

Such measures would entail a repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and the Defense of Marriage Act. It would also involve a push for an all-inclusive federal employment non-discrimination legislation (ENDA) and adding sexual orientation and gender identity to a comprehensive hate crimes bill.

Right now, the president remains popular with polls generally indicating that 60 to 70 percent of the American people approve of his job performance. They also, by large numbers, have a great deal of confidence in Mr. Obama despite his rocky first two months in office highlighted by a sinking economy and his desire to spend its way out of the muck.

Couple that with the unabated plunging of the Republican Party. The GOP is essentially leaderless and bankrupt of any ideas. They are losing the PR war by being effectively (and accurately) portrayed as the "Party of No." There have been dust-ups between recently elected Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele and the blustery but influential radio blowhard, Rush Limbaugh, as well as other key players within the party.

People around the U.S. and the world, for that matter, cringe at the nightmarish notion that if fortunes were reversed, John McCain would be floundering in an attempt to figure the way out of the economic morass. Sarah Palin, as vice-president, would be supervising an economic stimulus to nowhere with a chronic chorus of "Thanks, but no thanks." And the Secretary of the Treasury would be none other than the potential Nobel Prize winner in Economics (in his mind, at least) Joe the Plumber. Yikes!

It’s no wonder the good folks of America will continue provide President Obama with a very long leash to see this mess through. He has already accumulated a ton of good will, as evidenced by the gaudy poll results. And the alternative is downright frightening.

However, if history has taught us anything, nothing lasts forever. Mr. Obama could stumble as the economy tumbles more. He could be accused of allowing "bonus-gate" to erode an already low trajectory for consumer confidence. There could be an international crisis—somewhere, anywhere. Patience could easily wear thin. Joe Biden, God love him, could stand before a bank of microphones. Anything can happen that could derail this presidency.

That is why I conclude that the President and Congress should act swiftly on these LGBT initiatives. Indeed, a bill has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) to repeal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Moreover, a lawsuit by Major Margaret Witt is challenging the Air Force's attempt to discharge her under the policy. Observers see this as the rubber meeting the road for the President; he must weigh in on the issue now, as events will have forced his hand.

Barack Obama has promised support for the other key lgbt issues during his campaign, and we should be confident he will come through for us. He started off on the right foot by agreeing to formally endorse a United Nations declaration calling for an end to discrimination and other human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The action reversed President Bush’s refusal to sign off on the statement—the only Western country not to do so.

The President’s sway in Congress will, of course, be determined not just by poll numbers, but also by his ability to build consensus within the Democratic Party and reach across the aisle.
President Obama has already demonstrated that he can walk and chew gum at the same time.
While the economy is and should remain on the front burner, the President has delved into other issues that he sees as major components of his agenda, such as energy, health care and education.

That effort should continue with the LGBT matters that have been languishing in Congress for years, and in some cases, decades. Fear of being perceived as pro-gay has handcuffed many in Congress for too long.

This is a new day in America, however. We have a popular, compassionate and intelligent President who doesn’t flinch at accepting responsibility unlike his horrific predecessor.

Surveys continue to show increasing support for LGBT rights, especially in employment and in the military, so Congress ought to "man up" for a change and take on these important LGBT initiatives.

And Mr. Obama should use his current positive standing with the American people to promote and support LGBT non-discrimination now because who knows how long the window of opportunity will remain open?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Report Says Gays, Lesbians Poorer than Straights

By Steve Charing

Dispelling the myth that gays and lesbians are more affluent than the general population, a report issued on March 20 by the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute asserts that the opposite is true.
The study undertaken by the LGBT-focused think-tank found that after "adjusting for a range of family characteristics that help explain poverty," same-sex couples are "significantly" more likely to be poor than opposite-sex married couples.

"We find clear evidence that poverty is at least as common in the lesbian, gay and bisexual population as among heterosexual people and their families." This refutes "a popular stereotype (that) paints lesbians and gay men as an affluent elite," according to the study’s report.

The Williams Institute compiled their findings by reviewing data from the 2000 U.S. Census and two smaller surveys that included questions on sexual orientation. It is the first comprehensive study to analyze poverty among gay and lesbian couples.

This report, titled "Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community," does not cover transgender individuals because they could not be identified from the data reviewed. Nonetheless, at least eleven previous studies concluded that transgender people, who face significant job discrimination, are more likely to have very low income.

The study’s findings pre-date the current recession and conclude that: 1) lesbian couples have much higher poverty rates than either different-sex couples or gay male couples; 2) children in gay and lesbian couple households have poverty rates twice those of children in heterosexual married couple households; and 3) within the LGB population, several groups are much more likely to be poor than others. African-American people in same-sex couples and same-sex couples who live in rural areas are much more likely to be poor than white or urban same-sex couples.

Moreover, the study finds that while a small percentage of all families receive government cash supports intended for poor and low-income families, gay and lesbian individuals and couples are more likely to receive these supports than are heterosexuals since they tend to lack spousal benefits.

Children of same-sex couples do not fare well either. "While one in ten children of married couples are poor, one in five children living with a same-sex couple are living below the poverty level," says the report.

Among the reasons for the higher poverty levels among LGBT couples cited by the Williams Institute are: 1) LGBT vulnerability to employment discrimination, with no legal recourse in most states; 2) most same-sex couples are shut out of some institutions that enhance the economic position of families, such as marriage; 3) lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are more likely than heterosexuals to lack health insurance coverage, making them vulnerable to the economic consequences of a health crisis; 4) LGBT families are less likely to receive family support, which could translate into greater economic vulnerability; and 5) family conflict about coming out and violence in group homes results in high rates of homelessness for young LGBT people.

To help alleviate poverty among the LGBT population, the report recommends passage of ENDA—the Federal Employment Non-discrimination Act, granting of the right to marry or at least to a "meaningful legal status" like civil unions, and to shore up "holes" in the safety net.

"The misleading myth of affluence steers policymakers, community organizations, service providers, and the media away from fully understanding poverty among LGBT people or even imagining that poor LGBT people exist," the report states.

To read the full report, visit www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/home.html.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Guerilla Gay Bar Baltimore Rocks On

By Steve Charing

It was certainly peaceful as far as invasions go. Around 8:00 p.m. on March 6 there was a handful of gay men clustered together sipping drinks inside Luckie’s Tavern—which is located in Power Plant Live! on Market Place in Baltimore— checking out the entrance to see who else walks through.

As the minutes and hours passed and the beats to rock and 80’s pop tunes permeated in the background, that handful of people evolved into a small crowd, and eventually swelled to over 400 mostly gay men and some women who "invaded" the space normally frequented by straight twenty- and thirtysomethings on a rockin’ Friday night.

What was taking place was the fifth monthly installment of the rapidly growing Guerilla Gay Bar Baltimore phenomenon. Founders of this movement, Byron McFarlane, 25, of Ellicott City and Mark Yost, 28, of Mt. Vernon, (pictured) believed that Baltimore needed an alternative to the conventional bar scene.

"Washington, D.C. has a very large, active, gay community and for gay men and women who are really into the nightlife there are tons of options, including their own Guerrilla Queer Bar," noted McFarlane. That was among several similar groups that sprung up around the country.

"Mark and I always wanted to go to the D.C. gathering, but at one point we just said to each other, ‘Why don't we start one here?’ So the outlet is for everyone who doesn't want to drive an hour to Washington or go to the same old bars in Mt. Vernon," says McFarlane.

Despite the GGBB’s new logo, which depicts a militaristic-looking clenched fist on a bottle cap, both Yost and McFarlane insist that the "guerilla" aspect of GGBB is not an "in-your-face" activity nor are they trying to be confrontational. In fact, the bars that are selected are notified of the invasion and prepare for the volume of additional patrons. The logo is displayed on a sticker that is handed out to all the "invaders" for easy identification as part of the group.

"Our primary goal is to have a good time, but along with that is interacting with crowds many of us don't see very often," says McFarlane.

He adds, "Going to an identifiable gay bar versus a straight bar is different for some people because they aren't really interested in an exclusively gay environment. Others, because they don't have many or any gay friends and prefer to hang out with their straight friends at a straight bar."

Yost sees this as an opportunity to improve the social life in Baltimore but also to expand our exposure to other aspects of the city. "We are trying to help bring a new outlet for socializing to the gay community and also help the gay community experience more of Baltimore together," he says. "There is a benefit of doing it in a large group. Simply put, we may visit these bars, but it’s much easier to be yourself, in a larger group."

And what a large group it is!

The first GGBB event took place in November at Claddagh Pub in Canton and drew about 100. In December they attracted 175 at Mother’s in Federal Hill. Max’s in Fells Point drew 250 as the movement was starting to really catch on. And January’s event saw a stunning throng of over 400 pack Mt. Washington Tavern. A similar number showed up at Luckie’s Tavern.

The basic idea is that people sign up through Facebook and are notified a few days in advance of an announced date of the upcoming invasion of the straight bar.

For Scot Shaffer, his visit to Luckie’s Tavern marked his third GGBB appearance. A bartender at the Hippo, Scot likes the mix of the crowd. "There are different groups of gay people from all over the area, and I love the music," he says.

Another patron, Michael, 25, from Mt. Washington wanted a non-gay bar setting where it’s more relaxing for him. "I don’t have to worry so much about people hitting on me." He brought his straight friend Rachel who also enjoys the atmosphere and just wants to have a great time.
"What is great about this group is that there are lots of gay men and women who don't feel comfortable at gay bars, whether because they are not out or because it just isn't their thing," Byron McFarlane explains.

What about the straight patrons?

Stacie was sitting at a table at Luckie’s with several other straight friends and seemed oblivious to the gay invasion. When told, Stacie chuckled and said, "No wonder there are so many guys here." Her friend Ross of Mt. Washington said it was a cool idea and it certainly did not bother him one bit. Tom, 27, another straight man concurred. "Hey, we’re all here to have some drinks and enjoy ourselves."

"The bartenders, owners, and patrons have been at least accepting, and at best excited to have us," observed McFarlane.

The lack of backlash is noteworthy as GGBB continues to thrive. Mixing peacefully with straight people shows that maybe we’re not to be feared and could help us politically down the road. Says Mark Yost, "The more out we are, the harder it is to demonize our community and make us ‘others.’ I truly believe the greatest strides we will make as a community towards equal rights and acceptance will be from being ourselves, out in the straight world."

The next invasion is set for April 3. For more information about the group, visit http://www.ggb-baltimore.com/

Friday, March 06, 2009

Coping with the Recession

LGBT groups and other non-profits are finding ways to survive the economic downturn

By Steve Charing

These are grim times for everybody. Even if you haven’t been laid off or may not be handed the pink slip in the future, you most likely lost a third to a half of your "wealth" since October if you had money tied up in equities and bonds. Confidence is waning; credit is scarce; money is tight.

In this down economy people will spend on what they truly need or want, and everything else will be deferred until their economic circumstances improve. The same goes for businesses, who must cut costs, as there are fewer customers and of those, they are spending less to purchase their products or services. Cutting costs often entails cutting payroll, and with more people laid off, there are fewer customers and less money to be spent. It’s a vicious cycle.

Consequently, charitable and other non-profit organizations, including lgbt organizations, are likely to feel the pinch in the near future. Those individuals who are in financial straits now or fear such a condition are less likely to donate money to these organizations, and businesses will also hold on to their checkbooks.

As in the case of businesses, non-profit organizations depend on a revenue stream for survival. When revenue targets substantially fall short, they may be compelled to cut staff, cut back in advertising, cut programs and spend less on areas that support their mission.

Fortunately, some local organizations are bracing for the economic slide and have been addressing these challenges. They are actively trying to develop strategies to mitigate the economic pain caused by the recession.

"Like everyone we are concerned about the economic downturn and watching for its effects on Chase Brexton and our patients," says David Shippee, Chief Executive Officer of Chase Brexton Health Services, which maintains several offices and clinics in and around Baltimore. "But the bottom line at CBHS is stable and still in the black, in part, because of our long-standing efforts to assure that our sources of revenue are as diverse as possible."

He points out, however, that there has been a noticeable drop-off in individual and corporate giving. "Most recently as we prepare for our annual CBHS gala we are struggling to get corporate support for the event to come close to the levels we experienced in prior years," notes Shippee.

He states that the economic stimulus package includes some funding for healthcare, but also Obama’s initial budget contains increases for HIV/AIDS care through the Ryan White program and also increased funds going to community health centers to care for the uninsured.

"Although these sources only account for 15% of CBHS's revenue, it is hopeful to know that some relief may be likely in this area. It is too soon to determine how much additional support may be coming our way under these two programs."

Shippee explains that increased public or private dollars to help care for the uninsured becomes even more important in a recession. As more people lose jobs, they also lose their health insurance. Many of them turn to community health centers for care. "In the last year, we have seen a 54% increase in the number of uninsured patients being helped by CBHS. Other health centers in Maryland are also seeing an increase in uninsured patient visits, but their average increase is 20%."

The statewide LGBT civil rights advocacy organization Equality Maryland has not yet felt any adverse impact from the national recession. But they are mindful of it and concerned about potential decreased funding.

Equality Maryland regularly holds two major fundraisers during the course of the year, with the next one being the "Night Out for Equality" on June 7. Their planning committee is looking into ways to attract more supporters.

"We're hosting more low cost ticket events, like Equality Rocks!" says new director of development Kevin Walling. "This past January was a fantastic success both financially and in terms of reaching out to new members. House parties, smaller receptions and member-sponsored events are already in the works for the spring and summer."

Walling said he is open to any suggestions and welcomes more people to get involved. You may call him at 301-587-7500 or e-mail kevin@equalitymaryland.org.

Some of these efforts are paying off. A benefit for Equality Maryland as part of "An Evening with Lily Tomlin" at the Lyric Opera House on April 3 has been sold out. It will include an Equality Maryland-only reception with the headliner being part of the festivities.

Unfortunately, not all LGBT organizations are faring as well, especially some national ones. According to reports in the Washington Blade, several have been forced to take measures to deal with the slowing down of donations. For example, Lambda Legal and GLAAD are among those who needed to cut staff and other costs.

And the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lgbt advocacy group, was reported to be considering trimming salaries and holding back a cost-of-living increase this year for some employees to help deal with the economic downturn. Phone calls by OUTloud to HRC to obtain a comment were not returned.

The power of fundraising should not be underestimated even in turbulent economic times. Last month the producers of "Wicked" and 4Good Productions held a star-studded "Defying Inequality Concert" at New York’s George Gershwin Theater that attracted over 400 performers and celebrities. The event raised a whopping $400,000, of which $250,000 were donated by the producers and writers of "Wicked."

The stars included Carson Kressley, Harvey Fierstein, Cyndi Lauper, Sally Struthers, Rue McClanahan, "Wicked" composer Stephen Schwartz, Jane Fonda and Keith Olbermann. Cast members from Broadway's "Spring Awakening," "Billy Elliott," "The Lion King," "Mamma Mia," "Gypsy," among others, also performed.

The organizations that benefited from the fundraiser were the Empire State Pride Agenda, Family Equality Council, the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force, Equality California and Garden State Equality.

The results from this gala and Equality Maryland’s Lily Tomlin event demonstrate that even with a down economy, the stars still shine and people will pay to see them.

O'Malley's March

The Governor expends political capital demonstrating on behalf of convicted murders. Would he ever march for LGBT equality?

By Steve Charing

When I viewed the peculiar news footage that depicted Governor Martin O’Malley marching down West Street in Annapolis with others in his quest to end the death penalty, I was taken aback. My reaction was, O’Malley is protesting the death penalty in such a public way, but we can’t even get him to commit on same-sex marriage rights for Maryland’s gay and lesbian couples or on transgender protections.

The governor has seen his approval numbers fade since his election victory in 2006. He has had to face serious budget and economic issues where no matter which course of action he decided on, he was roundly criticized. This takes a toll on popularity and hence political capital, and the governor has little left to spend at this point.

But during the current General Assembly, Governor O’Malley made a decision that whatever political capital he has remaining, he was going to use it on repealing the death penalty. He cites his Catholic faith as the basis for his passionate effort to close down the death chamber in Maryland once and for all.

This is not a bad cause to be sure. I had once supported the death penalty believing it as a way to prevent repeat offenders. But I saw the inequities in its application and the potential deadly inaccuracies. And my views on the issue were cemented after reading John Grisham's The Chamber.

Despite Governor O’Malley’s public advocacy for repealing the death penalty, the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee killed the measure. That normally puts the kibosh on the initiative right then and there for the current session. However, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller eschewed the procedural protocol and decided to send the bill to the Senate floor for a full vote in deference to Mr. O’Malley’s office.

Of course, Mike Miller, who supports capital punishment, counted the votes in advance and is fully aware that complete repeal won’t pass the Senate. But this grand gesture, disingenuous as it appears, proves that if the governor takes a strong stand on a measure, it might, with help from the mega-powerful Senate president, bypass the usual customs and allow it to come up for a vote by the full Senate.

Contrast the governor’s high profile efforts to repeal the death penalty with his reticence on the major LGBT issues, especially same-sex marriage. Gay activists who overwhelmingly supported Mr. O’Malley’s election bid with votes and cash have been stymied by the governor’s avoidance of the hot-button issue.

Governor O’Malley got off on the wrong foot when immediately following the state’s Appeals Court ruling in September 2007 that upheld the current marriage laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman, he stated on television that "no one should redefine the sacraments."

Many activists, including some of the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit, were rankled by those remarks noting that he clearly knew what was being sought was civil recognition, not religious blessings. Others were miffed at his apparent backtracking of his position since 2004 when he allegedly supported same-sex marriage.

During the 2008 General Assembly, the governor was virtually invisible when the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act was introduced. The framework of the bill made it clear, mainly to address concerns of the governor and legislators, that civil marriage equality was the goal and that no religious institution would be forced to officiate any marriage ceremony with which they do not agree.

Even with 49 sponsors in tow and the religious concerns ostensibly addressed, the bill died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The governor could have made a difference had he chosen to support the measure in earnest.

Governor O’Malley stated during the session that he would sign a civil union bill if one came across his desk. But Equality Maryland, the state’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, decided such a route would be unacceptable and pushed for full marriage equality instead.

Moreover, the governor has yet to publicly offer his support for the Transgender Anti-Discrimination bill, which would add gender identity to existing state law prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit. As mayor of Baltimore, O’Malley signed a similar law in December 2002.

A march down Annapolis streets by Martin O’Malley to support marriage equality and transgender protections is a dream that is unlikely to materialize. Even a surprise visit to the Lobby Day rally last month where he could have addressed the crowd in front of the media on these important civil right issues was do-able and would have been extraordinary.

Former Governor Parris N. Glendening used the political capital he received from his 10-point re-election margin and pushed for legal protections for gays and lesbians. In 2001, he signed into law the historic bill that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We were fortunate that Glendening used his political capital for our cause before it rapidly eroded. There doesn’t appear to be enough gas in the political tank for Martin O’Malley to lead both the death penalty fight and advance lgbt rights, not to mention addressing the economic havoc, which is devastating the state. He has already expended his dwindling political capital on behalf of saving the lives of convicted murderers.

To his credit, the governor recently stated his support for a domestic partnership bill for state employees. With other measures needing his backing, will that be enough to get the LGBT community to march with him to the polls?

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun photo by Glenn Fawcett / February 25, 2009)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Bill to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Introduced

Obama campaigned on its repeal. Will he actively engage?

by Steve Charing

March 2 marked another historic date in the ongoing struggle for lgbt equality. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) introduced legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to ensure that all qualified Americans can serve openly in the military regardless of sexual orientation.

"This law has failed our country and our military for 15 years," Rep. Tauscher (pictured) said in her announcement. "It harms military readiness and discriminates against patriotic young men and women who want to serve their country. It's time for Congress to right this wrong."

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act will replace the ban with a nondiscrimination policy that will make our military not just more fair, but also more effective, backers say.

Since the advent of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" 15 years ago, over 13,000 service members have been discharged. Many valuable Arabic linguists as well as other gay and lesbian service members holding "mission critical" jobs have been discharged as a result of the policy, which most Americans view as a failure. It's estimated that every year 3,000 men and women who want to enlist or re-enlist decide not to because of this law.

President Obama has stated his willingness to repeal the current policy. But will he make the same mistake as President Bill Clinton?

Following through on a campaign promise, in 1993 President Clinton tried to end the military ban on gays and lesbians through an executive order. But he was met with stiff opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff including chairman General Colin Powell, commanders in the field, and by members of Congress, led by Senator Sam Nunn a Georgia Democrat who chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee.

President Clinton did not enjoy a strong relationship with the military from the outset. He was perceived by many as a draft dodger during the Vietnam War and had done little to reach out to the military. That lack of credibility as commander-in-chief mobilized the anti-gay forces within the military.

The debate that ensued put Democrats on the defensive and divided the military between veterans and current service members. Social conservatives used the issue to bludgeon President Clinton and questioned his patriotism. As a result, it usurped President Clinton’s thin layer of political capital and forced him to eventually settle for the compromise legislation that has been in place since 1993.

Since that time, public attitudes as well as of those who served have shifted towards allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. An ABC News-Washington Post poll conducted in July found increasing civilian acceptance of gays serving in the military. Seventy-five percent of Americans in the poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

This past November in Annapolis, over 100 retired generals and admirals have called for the repeal of the policy. To bolster their position, studies have been conducted that show that openly gay service members do not negatively impact morale or unit cohesion.

"As is the case with Great Britain, Israel, and other nations that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion, and sexuality," the officers wrote.

President Obama is in the midst of trying to help fix the economy, healthcare, energy dependence, education, fighting two wars, as well as other key priorities. Although he wants "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" to be repealed, he was more likely to make the push later in his term so that he can use his political capital to deal effectively with the current economic crisis. Moreover, he wants to build a consensus with the military brass, in particular, so that the repeal would be easier for Congress to swallow.

But the introduction of this bill could force the president into the spotlight on this issue—sooner than he had hoped—and will give Rush Limbaugh’s Republican Party another opportunity to mobilize the base.

Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, is urging the lgbt community and allies to write their congressmen to have them co-sponsor the bill. The bill will go before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee for a hearing.

How President Obama uses his leadership skills and spends his political capital may provide an insight on his commitment to gay rights in general. He didn’t want to fight this battle now, but it looks like he must.