Collins delivers on DADT; now, it’s Obama’s turn

Posted Dec. 11, 2010, at 8:16 a.m.

Those who questioned Sen. Susan Collins’ sincerity in wanting to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) got their comeuppance when the Republican from Maine did what she hinted she might do when we spoke Wednesday: She voted for cloture on the motion to reconsider the defense authorization bill (NDAA). But the motion failed 57 to 40. So, now Collins, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and others are leading an effort to get it passed as a stand-alone bill in the lame-duck session.

The chances of success are slim. But when striking a blow against discrimination and for people’s right to basic dignity, it’s damned well worth it.

Organizations such as Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Servicemembers United have taken the any-port-in-the-storm approach to get DADT repealed during the lame-duck session. They’re all for attaching it to a continuing resolution or some other legislative vehicle, in addition to backing a stand-alone bill.

But no matter what happens on Capitol Hill, the action will shift dramatically back to the White House. In fact, it already has. The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement immediately after NDAA failed. The nation’s largest gay rights organization called on President Barack Obama to “stop legal defense of DADT and issue stop-loss order.”

With just a few words in his State of the Union Address in January, Obama got the ball rolling on the repeal of DADT. He deserves credit for bringing us the closest we have come to ending this shameful policy that robs this nation of talent and risks our security.

In a statement issued Thursday by the White House, an “extremely disappointed” Obama urged “the Senate to revisit these important issues during the lame-duck session.”

But the failure in the Senate on Thursday – and the diminishing prospects of legislative success before the Republicans take over the House and increase their ranks in the Senate – means that the president is going to have to do what the Senate couldn’t on the repeal of DADT: lead.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of The Washington Post’s editorial page staff.