Tag Archive: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

NJ Congressional House Dems did right on DADT repeal – NJ’s Senators want to vote now

This will be a companion diary to Bill’s excellent post this morning. We wrote our posts at the same time, so this one was held until after Bill’s. – REE

As expected, New Jersey’s congressional delegation split along party lines in yesterday’s historic stand-alone vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the wildly misnamed, ineffective and exclusionary rule that has governed the United States Armed Forces since 1993 during the Clinton administration.  The policy was never fair, and it never worked. Theoretically it restricted the military from efforts to discover or reveal closeted gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers or applicants, while at the same time barring those who are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from military service.

Here’s the House Clerk vote tally for DADT repeal.  

No Good Reason for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi

For those who believe, as I do, that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is a horribly misguided and discriminatory policy that has done a great disservice to our armed forces, this has been a remarkable week.

During his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his intent to end the 17-year-old policy, leading to a standing ovation that included Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Yesterday, at a Senate hearing, Secretary Gates said “I fully support the president’s decision” and announced a working group to produce an implementation plan for repeal. At the same hearing, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made a strong appeal for repeal, saying that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.” The current policy, he said, “forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

In 2006, John McCain said, “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility.”

At yesterday’s hearing, he said he was disappointed in their testimony. Apparently, the advice of military leadership doesn’t count for much now.

It should be evident that it is a matter of when, not if, DADT is repealed and gay men and women will be able to serve openly in our armed forces.  I hope we see that day sooner, not later.

Overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not simply about providing equal rights. It’s about preventing the hemorrhage of critical military talent from an already-overstretched American military engaged in two wars. When I travel to the Middle East to meet American servicemen and women in the war theater, no one discusses their personal lives. Nobody should because it doesn’t matter. What matters is what they are doing to complete their missions and strengthen American security.

The real question is why are we depriving our armed forces of some of their most important resources? Why are we discharging skilled Arabic linguists, fighter pilots, and weapons officers? Why have we discharged more than 13,000 service members since 1994?

There is no good reason, as Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen made clear.

This week’s developments are encouraging, but, although Executive Branch action would be good, what is needed is Congressional action that would make equality the law. The bill I support – sponsored by my colleague Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, a Veteran of the War in Iraq – has more than 180 cosponsors. We should not wait to pass it.

No one would agree to deprive our military of ammunition or armor, so why deprive it of its greatest necessity, highly talented servicemen and women?

Lautenberg wants prompt action to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Hearings were held in the Senate yesterday on repealing don’t ask, don’t tell in the Military. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified and made his belief clear:

“It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do,” Mullen said. “We have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity – theirs as individuals and ours as institutions,” Mullen added.

I could not agree more, but Republicans complained that he was not letting the military do a fair review. Defense Secretary Gates said he wants a yearlong review of the policy:

Both Gates and Mullen pleaded with lawmakers for time to implement the repeal, but also stressed that a final decision rests with Congress. They noted the law cannot be repealed through executive action.

Should Congress approve new legislation repealing the law, Gates urged lawmakers to give the military at least a year to implement it.

For his part, Senator Lautenberg doesn’t want any more delays and put out this statement saying he wants to see the policy end now:

“No American should be barred from serving in our military simply because of their sexual orientation,” stated Lautenberg, an Army veteran.  “It is time to recognize the incredible sacrifices being made by all of America’s military men and women and the future contributions that will be made if we end the discriminatory ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.  Repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is the right thing to do and I will fight to see this outdated policy overturned.”

Senator Carl Levin suggested that the 2011 defense authorization bill might be a way to implement a moratorium of the law until it is repealed. He offered concern that the Pentagon wouldn’t make the change fast enough. To Mullen’s statement, it seems like the opposite of how things should work when you have organization that is built on duty and honor, yet force the soldiers to violate that honor and conceal their true identity, so that people can feel more comfortable about things. At a time when we need the best and the brightest, we’re limiting the field of candidates in order to accommodate and perpetuate a continued fear. It’s also insulting to the soldiers themselves to have enough faith in them that they can defend our freedoms, but can’t handle knowing their fellow soldier is gay.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – the Take Away

At todays Senate hearing on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Chair Carl Levin strongly supported repealing the law, saying,”The policy makes no sense.” Vice Chair John McCain opposed repeal indicating, “In the middle of two wars it is not wise… bad for discipline,and morale…”

Defense Secretary Gates announced he has appointed a working group to examine the matter and to make recommendations by the end of the year on how to implement such a repeal. He emphasized, however, it is up to congress to repeal the law. Democratic Senator Webb suggested he would like to hear the results of this working group before congress decides what to do.

THE PROBLEMS: Don’t Ak Don’t tell has been law since 1993, during which period there has been plenty of time for working groups to study the matter.  Indeed, President Obama, a known supporter of repeal,  has been in office for over a year, yet not until now is a serious study about to be undertaken, and it will last a year. And Gates implied it would take an additional year to implement it. Another problem: lengthy delays served to scuttle President Clinton’s desire to end this form of discrimination, and could easily play the same role now, particularly in the midst of midtem elections. A final problem:  it is not clear that the Senate could muster 60 votes to repeal the law.

THE SOLUTIONS: Senate and House leaders, and the President should use their muscle to get the needed votes soon,OR the repeal should be included as a clause in the next military authorization bill, in which case 60 votes (unlikely) would be needed to remove the clause.  

THE UBER SOLUTION: It’s time to show some audacity, Mr. Commander in Chief.  Our LGBT troops, their families and friends deserve no less.  “JUST DO IT.”

Obama asks and tells

Until now when the President was asked when he would end “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” his response was “Don’t ask me when and I won’t tell you.”  In the State of the Union he said, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. (Applause.) It’s the right thing to do. (Applause.)”  The most telling pat of his statement is “I will work with congress…”  True, rather than issuing an Executive Order, getting the law repealed is better, yet he could have been more forceful.  Lets hope he has the cojones to push this measure through congress and does so quickly before midterm election politicking, tea party hysteria, and the usual opponents drag it down. (Attaching this measure to a military funding bill is a good approach.)  It will be a proud day for New Jersey gays serving our country and for all of us seeking equality. Another important step forward.

Holt, Andrews & Pallone co-sponsor DADT repeal

Most of the talk surrounding what to do about Don’t ask, don’t tell has centered around what the Obama White House hasn’t done. The fact is, Congress hasn’t taken action either to fix the problem either, but Congressman Pat Murphy is being joined by Congressmen Holt, Andrews and Pallone to change that. Their bill would repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:

H.R.1283

Title: To amend title 10, United States Code, to enhance the readiness of the Armed Forces by replacing the current policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces, referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Congressman Holt had hoped in May that the bill would move to the House floor by the 4th holiday. They have 152 co-sponsors of the legislation. He also said that there are members who have said they will vote for the legislation, but can’t co-sponsor it. Congressman Murphy talked about the need for the legislation and the change in the law:

He said we have let go of over 13,000 troops because of DADT. He said an Act of Congress put the bill into law, and it will be Congress’s job to fix that mistake. This is how Congressman Murphy put it during the interview and I don’t know that there is much more that I can add:

It’s doesn’t matter if you’re in conservative district or a liberal district, if you’re an American you should believe in equality.  You should believe in that oath that we all take as an army officer, that we take as a Congressman to support and defend the constitution of the United States. And that constitution guarantees equality for everybody.  When you’re in Baghdad in 138 degree heat, like I was exactly 6 years ago, when you’re that guy to the left or your right or that young woman to your left or your right, the fact is you don’t care what their sexual orientation is, you don’t care what their race is, what their religion is, their creed is.  You care if they can fire an M4 assault rifle, whether they can kick down a door.  That’s what this is about.

Murphy is a very good spokesman for the change.  

Rothman: Pace is Wrong

Alfred Doblin of the Bergen Record uses his column today to talk about the injustice of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

YOU CAN TAKE the man out of Teaneck and, apparently, you can take the Teaneck out of the man. The borough known for diversity and tolerance is the hometown of Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Pace made headlines when he told The Chicago Tribune editorial board that he viewed homosexual behavior as “immoral,” akin to adultery, and would not want openly gay and lesbian soldiers serving in the military.

My boss, Congressman Steve Rothman, believes that Gen. Pace is wrong.  He’s quoted in the same article:

“First, I found General Pace’s comments offensive, and wholeheartedly disagree with his conclusion about the immorality of homosexuality. Second, gay and lesbian troops are just as patriotic, capable and important as any other members of America’s fighting forces.”

Amen to that.  I spent six years in the Navy and I can tell you that the last thing that mattered to me as a supervisor, as a sailor, or as a member of our Armed Forces was who the man or woman next to me loved or wanted to have sex with.  It just isn’t a factor.

The Engineer on the Marriage Equality Train

The “marriage equality” train, I’m told and told, has “left the station”.  It’s only a matter of when, not if, NJ recognizes the inherent right of all people to choose their lifemate and have the relationship legally recognized equally.  It looks to me like NJ is closer to being stuck in a car on the railroad tracks on which the marriage equality train runs that it is to being on the train itself. 

But the train is moving.  Read this op-ed by Gen. John Shalikashvili and realize that the US military is closer than ever to allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military.  But also understand that this, too, is a call for action to be delayed.  How we can ask a man or woman to die for “the land of the free and the home of the brave” while simultaneously saying, “We don’t like people like you, so make sure you stay carefully hidden from sight,” is beyond me.  Perhaps the “military equality” train has also left the station, but that is small comfort to the men and women discharged from active duty in the last decade because they refused to act like something they weren’t.