It seems that the United States is on the verge of marking another milestone in the nation’s long march toward full equality for all of its citizens: the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. Because of a deal negotiated among the White House, gay activists and the Pentagon, Congress could vote on a repeal this week, leaving actual implementation of the policy for next year, after the Pentagon has completed its study on how repeal will affect troop ‘readiness.’ From the WaPo:
President Obama has endorsed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise between lawmakers and the Defense Department, the White House announced Monday, an agreement that may sidestep a key obstacle to repealing the military’s policy banning gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.
The compromise was finalized in meetings Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers will now, within days, vote on amendments that would repeal the Clinton-era policy, with a provision ensuring that any change would not take effect until after the Pentagon completes a study about its impact on troops. That study is due to Congress by Dec. 1.
In a letter to lawmakers pushing for a legislative repeal, White House budget director Peter Orszag wrote Monday that the administration “supports the proposed amendment.”
“Such an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights and suggestions,” he wrote.
Still, it’s not clear that there are enough votes in Congress to end the odious DADT policy. Opposition remains even though — as the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, has eloquently testified —forcing gay soldiers and sailors to remain in the closet tarnishes “integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”
Sen. John McCain, who once favored ending the policy, has reversed himself — as he has on so many principled stands he took in the past. Sen. Saxby Chambliss has trotted out the hackneyed idea that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would damage the military: “The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would very likely create an unacceptable risk to those high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and effective unit cohesion and effectiveness, ” he said.
That’s nonsense. Israel allows gays and lesbians to serve openly, and few would dispute that it is among the finest fighting forces in the modern world. That’s why Mullen and Gates, among other Pentagon leaders, are ready to get on board.
Whether Congress ends the policy this year or next, DADT is on its way out.