Today, Metro Weekly, along with eight other LGBT media outlets, attended a briefing on LGBT issues by White House Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes. White House spokesman Shin Inouye, Office of Public Engagement deputy director Brian Bond and deputy associate White House Counsel Ian Bassin also attended the meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour, although they did not actively participate in the question-and-answer session.
The meeting was not intended to present us with new developments or legislative strategies, but it was an opportunity for those of us covering the White House's actions to have an extended discussion with one of the most senior people in the administration responsible for advising President Obama on many, if not most, LGBT issues.
The result was a more expansive understanding of how LGBT issues are handled in the White House -- but it was not an altogether satisfying experience.
Jillian Weiss, a professor of law and society, attended on behalf of The Bilerico Project and writes of the meeting, "I don't feel like I walked out with any more information than I walked in with. I already knew that the President was letting the legislative branch get away with ignoring LGBT rights."
Although I will be writing more later, one of the two primary pieces of news to come out of the meeting, to the extent there was any, was a disconcerting one regarding the administration's position on the upcoming Senate consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act, which currently includes the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" amendment passed by the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Barnes was asked by AmericaBlog's Joe Sudbay about potential Senate floor amendments that would "change the certification process for the repeal of 10 U.S.C. 654 -- the law that is DADT. "Will the White House actively oppose any amendments" like that?
What I can tell you is that when we see any amendments that are filed, that we will continue to do what we did through the process in the House, which is, work to move this forward. Obviously if there is an effort to undermine repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" the president will fight -- wouldn't be supportive of that. At the same time, I can't sit here and walk through hypotheticals for amendments that I haven't seen or that haven't been filed.
The key contained in Barnes's answer is the difference between whether the White House would "fight" such an amendment, which Sudbay called a "killer amendment," or merely not "be supportive of that." Barnes's immediate correction, for whatever reason, captured the concern that LGBT advocates have expressed with the administration perfectly.
It is, in fact, the difference between being a "fierce advocate" and not.