This is long over due!
In a landmark for gay rights, the Senate on Saturday voted to let gays serve openly in the military, giving President Barack Obama the chance to fulfill a campaign promise and repeal the 17-year policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Obama was expected to sign it next week, although the change wouldn’t take immediate effect. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt troops’ fighting ability. After that, there’s a 60-day waiting period for the military.
“It is time to close this chapter in our history,” Obama said in a statement after a test vote cleared the way for final action. “It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.”
The Senate vote was 65-31. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, on Wednesday.
Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.
More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.
Rounding up a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was a historic victory for Obama, who made repeal a campaign promise in 2008. It also was a political triumph for congressional Democrats who struggled in the final hours of the postelection session to overcome GOP objections on several legislative priorities before Republicans regain control of the House in January. More…
Pentagon study: http://tinyurl.com/23lxc49
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network: http://www.sldn.org/
Information on the bill, H.R. 2965, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov
This is astounding news! Just when most progressives believed that the Obama administration’s stance on the procedural aspects of DADT. Of course going that route would mean that DADT could take years to be repealed by legislative procedures.
A gay rights group says the Air Force has told its legal officers to stop enforcing “don’t ask, don’t tell” because of a judge’s ruling Tuesday. But the order to halt discharges could end soon.
The Obama administration will ask the judge to allow the ban on homosexual servicemen and women to continue in force pending an appeal to reverse the ruling, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
Lawyer Dan Woods said his client, Log Cabin Republicans, which won the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ruling on Tuesday, has been notified that the Justice Department “will appeal and seek a stay” in the case later Thursday. That word was confirmed by the person in the government knowledgeable about the administration’s discussions.
The government source said the delay in responding to the judge’s order resulted because the Obama White House weighed in on the Justice Department’s handling of the case.
This person, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s internal deliberations, said a couple of White House lawyers did not want to seek a court order that would temporarily suspend the judge’s ruling.
The source said the process was back on track and that court papers seeking the stay will be filed.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside, Calif., ordered the military “immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation” or other proceeding to dismiss gay service members. The 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” law says gays may serve in the military but only if they keep secret their sexual orientation.
Phillips wrote that the law “infringes the fundamental rights” of current and prospective service members.
The administration’s decision to appeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ruling comes just one day after it filed an appeal against a separate judges ruling that part of the Defense Of Marriage Act is “unconstitutional” because it withholds health and retirement benefits for the spouses of federal employees in same-sex marriages.
Before news that Department of Justice would appeal Phillips’ ruling, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network circulated an e-mail on Thursday that it said was written by the Air Force’s Judge Advocate General Richard Harding. In that e-mail, Harding says the Defense Department “will abide” by a court order that says the military can no longer discharge service members who are openly gay.
Such guidance would represent the first time in decades that the military would not discriminate based on sexual orientation.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is “going to end” — it’s just a matter of how.
On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters traveling with him in Europe that repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law should be considered only after the Pentagon completes a study of the impact of lifting the ban, including an assessment of service members’ attitudes toward the change. The study is due Dec. 1.
Allowing gays to serve openly “is an action that requires careful preparation and a lot of training,” Gates said. “It has enormous consequences for our troops.”
It all comes down to whether the Democrats in the Senate will have the votes to push the DADT repeal initiative through. The most surprising aspect to all of this is Lady Gaga’s impassioned and eloquent speech supporting the repeal of DADT.
President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Marine Corps says he doesn’t think Congress should lift the ban on gay troops who want to serve openly.
Gen. James Amos’ comment came hours before a Senate test vote on a defense policy bill that would repeal the 17-year-old law, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Amos told a Senate panel on Tuesday he was concerned that unit morale could suffer. He also said the shake up could become a distraction for forces busy fighting in Afghanistan.
When pressed by Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, who supports repealing the law, Amos said the Marine Corps would dutifully implement any changes to its personnel policy if Congress changed the law.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) – It’s John McCain versus Lady Gaga on Tuesday as the Senate takes up the emotional issue of repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
Senate Democrats have attached repeal of the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law to a bill authorizing $726 billion in military spending next year. The fate of the move appears uncertain, but whichever way the votes go, repeal seems destined to become a major issue in this fall’s midterm elections.
The law is already under siege. A federal judge in California recently ruled the ban on gays was unconstitutional, polls suggest a majority of Americans oppose it and Lady Gaga has challenged it in a YouTube video.
Repeal advocates say the law deprives the military of capable soldiers and violates civil rights.
A gay rights group pushing for a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is warning gay and lesbian service members not to participate in a Defense Department survey distributed this week to active-duty and reserve troops.
The Pentagon is studying the potential impact of repealing the gay ban and on Wednesday began e-mailing troops a link to a survey with more than 100 questions. The survey will be included in a final report due to President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen by Dec. 1.
But the nonpartisan Servicemembers Legal Defense Network reminded gay and lesbian service members on Thursday that the military is still enforcing the gay ban and that completing the survey could result in a discharge.
About 200,000 active-duty troops and 200,000 reserve troops will receive the survey, which should take no more than 30 minutes to complete, the Pentagon said. Troops have until Aug. 15 to complete it. Another 150,000 family members of troops will receive a separate survey in early August.
The survey asks service members about their general experiences in the military, about past experiences serving with people they believe are gay or lesbian and for opinions on how repealing the gay ban might impact retention, referrals, unit cohesion, privacy and military family life, the Pentagon said.
SLDN said it worried gay and lesbian service members could be outed by the survey.
“While the surveys are apparently designed to protect the individual’s privacy, there is no guarantee of privacy and DOD has not agreed to provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement. “If a service member still wishes to participate, he or she should only do so in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation.”
After a service member completes the survey, he or she can provide extended comments to a “confidential online dialogue” established by the Defense Department. Service members will be given a PIN code to access the program, which is being operated by independent research firm Westat.
“This PIN code has no personally identifying data associated with it,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “Westat moderators will not ask individuals for any personally identifying information. If a service member shares his/her name with the Westat moderator, that information will be held in confidence, deleted from the Westat files, and not shared with anyone – including DoD.”
Troops who do not receive a survey can provide comments to the online dialogue at www.defense.gov/DADT.
The White House in May brokered a deal between lawmakers and gay rights groups that would repeal the Clinton-era policy by ensuring that any change would not take effect until after the Pentagon completes its study. The House approved the measure as part of the annual defense spending bill and the Senate is expected approve it later this year.
Republican lawmakers said passing a repeal before completion of the Pentagon study would deter service members and their families from participating. Gates provided only tepid support of the agreement and later reminded troops that repeal is still months away.
But a federal court case could end the policy sooner. A California federal judge on Tuesday issued a written order denying a government request to dismiss a suit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans that challenges the constitutionality of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The case is set to start next Tuesday in Riverside, Calif.