The rule of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the U.S. armed services could be grinding to an end. Repeal could come up for a vote as early as this week.
Things started to look good back in April, when John M. McHugh, the secretary of the Army, said that he was planning to ignore the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule and was not going to advocate discharges for anyone he knows to be gay as a result of conversations that he has had while researching the current situation in the military. The policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been openly opposed by President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
Here Is Where It All Stands as of This Week
1. The president, the Pentagon and leading members of Capitol Hill have agreed on basic language and time frame for voting on repeal.
2. Now Congress can take up the matter as soon as this week.
But Here Begin the Potential Hitches
Within the compromises that were made to get this bill moving are the following conditions:
3. Even IF the measure to repeal passes, no change will go into effect until after the military completes their "readiness study" in December.
4. Assuming that happens, the president and the joint chiefs of staff (according to gay.amaerica.blog.com) need to certify:
- That they have considered the recommendations in the study
- That the DOD has prepared the necessary policies and regulations needed to implement a repeal
- That the implementation of the repeal is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention
5. There is no timeline for definite repeal.
According to The New York Times, the bill is thought to be pressed forward now, before the study is complete, in order to get it through while Congress still has a strong Democratic majority -- i.e. before November and whatever that might bring. Tying it to the satisfactory completion of the Pentagon study has been a way to get bipartisan support and backing from the Secretary of Defense.
The military will soon be sending out a survey to about 70,000 troops and families to get their opinions. Town hall meetings have been held, with more coming, and a website provides a place for troops to write in their views. CNN surveys beginning in 2008 of the general overall U.S. population indicate that as many as 79 percent accept the idea of gays in the military.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, lead author of this legislation to end "don't ask, don't tell," is hopeful about getting the requisite number of votes. Fox news reports that he said :
This was always going to be a close vote both in the committee and I think on the floor of the Senate and the House. To me what’s really important is that the American people have decided that it doesn’t make sense anymore to prohibit gay men and women who want to serve our country, particularly when our country needs the capabilities that they have."
Senator John McCain, R-AZ, however, wants everyone to wait until the study is completed to look at any bill. He said:
This "Don't ask, don't tell" issue, they're going to try to jam that through without even trying to figure out what the impact on battle effectiveness would be.
A strong Republican opposition is expected.
So there are a lot of variables in the mix here -- including what will happen over the long Memorial Day weekend if Congress passes the measure before the end of the week, especially given conservative opposition during a high-visibility military holiday.
Should Congress manage to pass this legislation this week, that does not mean the issue is settled. It means that it has a chance to be settled. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the remaining hurdles.
And What Are BlogHers Saying?
Let’s hope our elected officials have the courage to do the right thing and end a policy that has prevented thousands of patriotic Americans from serving their country honestly and openly.
Emily Rutherford of Campus Progress discusses the varying reactions of the GLBT community to this measure and its potential high hurdles and concludes:
To make a long story short: This is more government motion in opposition to DADT then we’ve seen in the law’s 17-year history. It would be a mistake not to be cautiously optimistic, and an even greater mistake to work to undermine this progress if you support a repeal of DADT in the first place.
I can’t actually decide if it is a good one or not. As I understand it the law will be repealed, but the repeal will not take effect until the Pentagon has completed it’s study on the feasibility of allowing gay service members to serve openly. I’m not sure what will happen if the study concludes it’s infeasible.
The formal letter requesting presidential approval from the bill's primary backers can be found here.
The formal response from the administration can be found here.
What are your thoughts?
~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool
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