President Obama is mobilizing the network of millions of Web-connected supporters he built in the 2008 campaign to counter threats Republicans are making to block a repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Organizing for America (OFA), a Democratic advocacy group built from Obama’s campaign apparatus, emailed the president’s supporters Friday, asking them to join an Internet pledge to back the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the 17-year-old policy which allows gays to serve in the military only if they keep their sexuality hidden.
Obama promised to do away with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during his 2008 campaign, and vowed in January during his State of the Union address to make good on that commitment this year. Supporters of repeal have noted that more than 250 gays and lesbians have been discharged from the armed forces since Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
It’s estimated some 65,000 gays and lesbians currently serve in uniform.
The full House and the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday separately approved legislation that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allow gays to serve in uniform openly.
The full Senate must now approve the legislation and send it to Obama to sign into law, which would end the ban on gays serving openly.
In his email, OFA Director Mitch Stewart says Senate Republicans plan an attempt to block Democrats from bringing the repeal legislation to a vote. Social conservatives have been working vigorously to try to derail a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“The full Senate will soon start its debate on repeal. But some Republicans are digging in their heels,” says Stewart, who was an architect of Obama’s primary and general election campaigns in 2008. “Senator John McCain said, ‘I’ll do everything in my power’ to block a vote. And Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker called the repeal bill ‘a major mistake’ — announcing that the GOP plans to filibuster.
“We can defeat those who’d stand in the way of history. But we must show our senators that Americans — in every state — overwhelmingly support repeal,” Stewart adds.
With 41 Republicans in the chamber, the Senate GOP has enough members to sustain a filibuster of legislation as long as all Republicans hold together for such obstruction.
Since Obama’s election, OFA has been folded into the national Democratic National Committee. The group, which sends its emails using the barackobama.com Internet domain, has worked to mobilize the president’s supporters a number of times to advance his priorities, including to push passage of healthcare reform and financial reform legislation. OFA emails reach an estimated 13 million email addresses collected during Obama’s White House bid.
Stewart says that repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is about more than Obama keeping a campaign promise, but rather because “it’s the right thing to do.”
“Any policy that punishes brave men and women who step forward to serve their country simply for being who they are isn’t just misguided — it’s discrimination,” Stewart adds. “That’s why President Obama didn’t just campaign on ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’; he made it a priority. And it’s why it’s now a matter of how and when — not if — we will repeal this law.
“But as the Republicans prepare to block a vote on this historic legislation, we must do all we can to help deliver on the President’s promise,” Stewart says.
The publisher of the news site, On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.