|At a May 21 Equality California benefit celebrating Harvey Milk Day (see story page 4), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised Donâ€™t Ask Donâ€™t Tell would be repealed by the end of the year. Nobody imagined the vote could happen as soon as this week. PHOT
An important compromise on May 24 between the White House and many Congressional Democrats has been reached to include repeal of the anti-gay military ban of Donâ€™t Ask/ Donâ€™t Tell (DA/DT) legislation in a bill to be voted on as early as May 27. This would permit Congress to vote on its repeal; but if it passes, it would not take effect until after the Pentagon has completed its internal study of the issue. This means, according to the official compromise, it would not go into effect until â€śthe President transmits to the Congressional Defense Committees a written certification signed by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that repeal would be consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces. It should be noted that in the past, all three have supported the repeal.
Three Congressmen formed this plan: Representative Patrick Murphy (D-Pennsylvania, an Iraq war veteran), Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut). Representative Murphy has noted that since DA/DT went into effect, the cost to taxpayers has mounted to over $1.3 billion.
Another momentous occasion towards repeal came in the form of the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had been adamant that Congress not repeal the anti-gay military policy until the military review had been completed. But Gates has now decided to accept the compromise amendment to vote on repeal now, but not implement it until the study of HOW to repeal it has been accomplished â€“ which authorities say should be by December of this year.
â€śSecretary Gates continues to believe that ideally the DOD review should be completed before there is any legislation to repeal the Donâ€™t Ask/ Donâ€™t Tell law,â€ť Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell stated. â€śWith Congress having indicated that is not possible, the secretary can accept the language in the proposed amendment.â€ť
It is now up to the Senate and the House to vote on this. On May 25, Congressman Murphy introduced his amendment to the House as part of the Defense Authorization Bill. He needs 217 votes to pass it. He says he has 192 co-sponsors thus far â€“ some of which are Republicans. Not surprisingly, the party of NO (most Republican Congress people) have officially given the thumbs-down to the amendment to news sources, even going so far as to say should the amendment be included in the Defense Authorization Bill, they would vote against the entire bill. In essence, they are stating it would be better to not fund the military than have gays serving openly in the military. According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown stated he will vote no when the DA/DT measure comes up for a vote. This is heartbreaking news when one considers the seat Brown replaced (or usurped).
Since DA/DT has been put into law, nearly 14,000 queer men and women have been fired from the military simply because of their sexual orientation being disclosed - either voluntarily or not. Usually not by their own consent but rather through a witch-hunt.
According to Washington Post polls, since DA/DT went into effect, the May 1993 polls showed public opinion of 44% in favor of gays in the military. In January 2001, the numbers climbed to 62%. And as of February this year, statistics hold rather steadily at 75%. The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey shows 78% of Americans supporting the change, including six out of ten Republicans.
President Barack Obama has continually promised to eventually repeal DA/DT. Queer activists are holding him to his word. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has practically promised this will be accomplished by this Congressional session.
As Bay Times goes to press, the latest good news is that Senator Susan Collins, a Republican considered as a critical vote on DA/DT, claims she will support legislation to repeal the militaryâ€™s ban. Collins is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is expected to vote as early as Thursday on whether to include the repeal provision in the 2011 Defense Authorization bill.
Unfortunately some conservative Democrats on the panel have been reluctant to get behind the measure because they want to give the Pentagon more time to study the policy change.
â€śDonâ€™t Ask/ Donâ€™t Tell strips the military of so many qualified lesbian and gay service members by mandating their discharge,â€ť said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. He said at SLDN they continue to see the casualties of DA/DT almost every day.
We are all Americans, and we all take the same oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,â€ť Murphy stated. â€śAnd that Constitution makes sure that all men and women are treated equally - especially if they want to serve our country in uniform to protect us. We should stand by them, and we should stand by our Constitution.â€ť