Over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noted that the Senate is preparing to adjourn for the year on December 17—less than two weeks away. There is no time in this week’s schedule to address the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains the law’s repeal as well as a number of added benefits for service members—meaning that officials would have to leave just 5 days for an abbreviated amendment and debate schedule. Many Republicans have asked for two weeks of debate over the Defense Authorization Bill (although Talking Points Memo argues that this is just a political scheme to delay the vote).
Senator Mark Udall addressed some of these concerns yesterday on MSNBC. “It’s beginning to make its way through the courts – that’s a very uncertain path,” he pointed out, saying that national security would be best served by repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” now, but that time is indeed a significant factor. He also said that he would be “willing to stay through Christmas and New Year’s, if that’s what it takes,” to address the NDAA and other bills, and urged his colleagues to do the same. His comments appear below:
Although supportive of DADT’s repeal, Defense Secretary Robert Gates also agrees that it will be difficult. “I’d have to say I’m not particularly optimistic that they’re going to get this done,” he said on Monday. He fears that if Congress does not act on the legislation, the courts might overturn it on their own, which may force implementation “without any time for preparation for training.”
Nevertheless, other White House officials are insisting that the law will be brought to a vote during the lame-duck session. “This is a priority for the President, and we are confident that the Congress will be able to address this issue this year,” said White House spokesperson Shin Inouye. Senator Joe Lieberman is also urging Congress to address the law. “If we spent five solid days on this bill … I think it would be hard to say at the end of that week that we hadn’t had opportunity for a good thorough debate,” he explains. “We have a week here if we want to do it.” He believes that there are enough votes for repeal to take place.
Furthermore, in one of the most recent polls on the issue, CBS News found that almost 70% of Americans believe gay men and lesbians should be permitted to serve openly in the military—an increase of seven percentage points since October. Only 23% are opposed. Of those supporting open service, more than half are “strongly” in favor of it. Two in three Democrats and a majority of independents strongly favor changing the policy, along with 32% of Republicans. The CBS News poll is consistent with other polls in the past few months showing a majority of Americans favoring repeal—as well as the recent Pentagon report showing 70% of service members and their spouses favoring repeal.
Kerry Eleveld from the Advocate says the potential lack of progress on DADT’s repeal would be “a fundamental failure of leadership from the top down, starting with President Obama. … The fact is, Democratic leaders sealed their own fate on a packed calendar.” It’s true that President Obama expressed his intention to repeal DADT beginning in his 2008 presidential election, and many members of the LGBT community have since expressed frustration with his administration’s lack of progress on pivotal issues like marriage equality, employment non-discrimination, and of course, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Regardless of DADT’s fate at the end of this year, GLAAD urges the media to keep up their coverage of lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of the armed forces, as well as others affected by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and to represent their stories in a fair and accurate way. Television, newspapers, and other outlets have a responsibility to educate the public and provide the information necessary for Americans to craft their own opinions on such an important issue—not just during crucial moments on the Senate floor, but all the time.