Update on Status of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"


In the past week there have been many substantial developments regarding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the law banning gay men and women from serving openly in the military.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid has affirmed his support for a second time on repealing DADT.  He took to his Twitter account late

Wednesday to show his support by saying, “I stand by commitment to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  His call to repeal DADT is packaged in a Defense Department authorization measure.  Republicans need to give their approval before the measure is voted on in the Senate, but there may not be enough time for this to take place during Congress’s lame duck session.  Reid admits that the repeal won’t be possible without the cooperation of Republicans, saying:

“If we can get some agreement from the Republicans that we can move the bill without a lot of extraneous amendments, I think it’s something we could work out. That would be my goal.”

Other Senators have also taken to the airwaves this week to relay their support of repealing DADT.  Yesterday, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado issued a joint statement calling on the Senate to repeal DADT during the lame duck session.

The White House supports the ban of DADT, but is not confident in how that will proceed. Last weekend, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters, “I would like to see the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ but I’m not sure what the prospects for that are.”  The biggest barrier to repealing DADT, according to The Wall Street Journal, is the newly elected Congress.  Republicans have taken the majority of the House of Representatives, along with an increase in the Senate.  Gates is urging Congress to act quickly to repeal DADT before the year ends. President Obama agrees with Gates, and said last Wednesday that he wants to see DADT repealed before the new Congress is sworn in.  Obama stated,

“This should not be a partisan issue.  You’ve got a sizable portion of the American people squarely behind the notion that folks who are willing to serve on our behalf should be treated fairly and equally.”

Meanwhile on Friday, the Log Cabin Republicans asked the Supreme Court to allow LGBT members of the military to serve openly pending the appeal by the Obama administration of Judge Virginia Phillips’ ruling that declared DADT unconstitutional. The filing criticized the appeals court for ignoring the “preventable human suffering caused by violation of constitutional rights,” and reiterated Phillips’ conclusion that the current policy undermines military effectiveness. It also said that the appeals’ court decision placed greater weight on the military’s “bureaucratic concerns” than the harm DADT inflicted on service members.

Finally, members of the military themselves are still expressing conflicting viewpoints. Over the weekend, the new Marine Corps commandant, General James Amos, expressed his apprehension on overturning DADT while US troops are still in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His main concern is the effect that the repeal will have on unit cohesion and combat readiness.  Amos asserted,

“There’s risk involved; I’m trying to determine how to measure that risk. This is not a social thing. This is combat effectiveness. That’s what the country pays its Marines to do.”

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and supporter of a repeal on DADT,  was surprised that General Amos had spoken out so publicly about his opinion on this matter.  Mullen contended that service chiefs are expected to offer their best military advice on this issue “privately.”  The heads of each military service had previously agreed to come together and look at the data outcomes to make their recommendations privately about the impact of lifting the ban on DADT.

Nan McCarthy, a military wife in Kansas City, wrote an op-ed about her support for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  She describes being sent a survey by the Department of Defense, seeking military spouses to comment on the effects of repealing DADT.  The survey questioned whether allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military would affect the military spouses’ ability to provide effective support should her husband be deployed.  McCarthy commented,

“My response? Any issues resulting from service members or their families reluctant to work, socialize and live alongside gays and lesbians should be addressed in the same way the military handles issues involving intolerance toward minorities, including service members who are discriminated against based on their race, gender, religion, or ethnicity. That is to say, what’s the big deal?”

The Pentagon is currently studying how a repeal would be implemented should Congress move in that direction.  With the results due by December 1, supporters have urged lawmakers to repeal the ban after the review is complete but before the new Congress is sworn in.

GLAAD will continue to monitor important developments and keep readers informed on the status of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.


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