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UPDATE: Checking in on the Status of DADT

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By GLAAD |
November 10, 2010

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 President Obama agrees with Gates, and said last Wednesday that he wants to see DADT repealed before the new Congress is sworn in.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.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports on Saturday, November 11:

A Pentagon study group has concluded that the military can lift the
ban on gays serving openly in uniform with only minimal and isolated
incidents of risk to the current war efforts, according to two people
familiar with a draft of the report, which is due to President Obama
on Dec. 1.

More than 70 percent of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty
and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the
"don't ask, don't tell" policy would be positive, mixed or
nonexistent, said two sources familiar with the document. The survey
results led the report's authors to conclude that objections to openly
gay colleagues would drop once troops were able to live and serve
alongside them.

Servicemembers United responded with this release:

Servicemembers United, the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, issued the following statement today in response to a front-page Washington Post story about additional leaked results from the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group study on implementing the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law:

"These results confirm what those of us who actually know the modern military, especially the rank and file troops, have said all along. The men and women of America's armed forces are professionals who are capable of handling this policy change," said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence Collector who was discharged under the law in 2002. "In light of these findings, as well as the Secretary of Defense's recent call for Senate action on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' during the lame duck session, there is no longer any excuse for failing to bring the defense authorization bill back up during the first week of the post-election legislative session."

And here's reaction from Army veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

"A clear majority of service members are okay serving side by side with their gay comrades, and their attitudes reflect how most Americans feel about open service: It’s no big deal, let’s move on and get the job done. The military has a proud tradition of adjusting to change and becoming stronger for it. Ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will be no different. It’s clear a majority of Americans in both the military and civilian spheres agree that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is outdated and should go. Congress needs to catch up and the Senate should immediately act on repeal when it returns to Washington next week. No one should be surprised if a vocal minority, for a short window, might object, as a minority did when segregation in the ranks ended and women were admitted to the service academies.  In the military you get over your objections or you get out.”

Issues: