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Change is Afoot

What a difference a week makes.

Just a week after GetEqual’s first direct action, the Pentagon announced today that Sec. Robert Gates is taking “unilateral action” ahead of congressional action in order to relax the enforcement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

From the Washington Independent:

Gates told senators that he would put together a study group, led by Army Lt. Gen. Carter Ham and Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson, to study the least-disruptive ways to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

That study hasn’t concluded. Nor has the Senate taken up Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) bill to repeal the ban. But Gates has some unilateral tools at his disposal, and this week he intends to use them.

“He will announce changes to the way the current law is being enforced that make it more difficult to begin investigations and kick people out,” said a defense source who would not speak for the record ahead of Gates’s announcement. Spokesman Geoff Morrell hinted in his briefing yesterday that Gates would make some changes, but did not specify any.

The announcement comes the same day that long-time gay rights activist Cleve Jones, who was instrumental in organizing last October’s National Equality March, published a conciliatory open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the letter, Jones Jones makes an appeal for Speaker Pelosi’s skills as an artful and persuasive politician and leader.

We’ve seen the passion you’ve brought to the challenge of passing health care reform. Now more than ever, we need your passion and skill to achieve the passage of ENDA.

As you know, many Americans in the LGBT community — especially young people — are increasingly frustrated and cynical about the pace of progress in Washington.

We want you to show them that cynicism is not the response at this time. They need to believe in the process, Madame Speaker, and you can restore their faith in this process by moving expeditiously to bring ENDA to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

It is clear that the gay rights movement has no plans to ease up on its pressure to act on ENDA and DADT this year. I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. House Dems may have been chanting “Fired Up! Ready to Go!” at the health care reform bill signing ceremony, but I’m just not that confident they have it in them to work on immigration and climate change much less ENDA and DADT. I just don’t have that much faith in them, I guess.

Despite that, I still plan to do my part to keep up the pressure. If there’s anything the health care debate has taught us is that for change to happen with this administration and this congress it’s going to take everything your side has for anyone to react.

Choi’s actions were criticized last week by some because of his apparent ignorance to the debate du jour, health care. I think it was smart, though. After all, the Pentagon has not ceased operations because of that debate. In the midst of all the health care craziness were hearings and testimony from military brass before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Each who for the most part were in solidarity on the need to put an end to the inane DADT policy.

Surely Choi’s behavior caught the notice of his superiors who were no doubt put in an ackward situation because of him. Better to just urge Sec. Gates to do something now in order to curb more and more similar actions by other LGBT servicemembers who are certainly growing tired of this policy, too.

I know Congress would like to coast from here on out until November, but the reality is there is still so much more to get done and the community simply must keep vigorously applying the pressure. I am admittedly skeptical to whether Congress will do anything for the rest of the year, but I’ve never wanted to be proven so wrong before.

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