Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now saying that there are “a number of senators” working on a bill to repeal the military’s policy of “Don’t’ Ask; Don’t Tell” toward gays serving in the ranks, according to a report in Advocate.com.
Earlier this week, Reid announced there were no sponsors for a bill to repeal “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell,” noting that he hoped the repeal might be done administratively by the President. This would entail President Barack Obama using an executive order to stop enforcement of the policy or striking the policy out of Department of Defense regulations.
“We do not have a DADT bill introduced in the Senate yet, but a number of senators are working on a bipartisan approach to get DADT repealed,” Reid said. “We would welcome a legislative proposal from the White House on repeal so as to provide clear guidance on what the president would like to see and when.
“With presidential leadership and direction, I believe we can find the time to get repeal done in this Congress. We need all the troops we can get right now,” he concluded.
This latest pronouncement on the subject from Reid is consistent with word from the White House on the subject. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has said that President Barack Obama’s sees legislative action as the only “durable solution” to overturning the controversial military policy.
Many detractors of DADT had hoped that President Obama would follow through on his campaign promise to nix the regulation within the first few weeks of his administration
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives already has a bill down the pike (HR 1283). Called the “Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009,” its aim is 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.”
It was introduced on March 3 and has been referred to Committee.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, welcomed the news of the Senate initiative, but wished that President Obama would take the lead, according to Advocate.com.
“The president’s views and specific recommendations, not to mention his leadership, are critical in this debate,” he said. “He should either publicly endorse the House bill (HR 1283) repealing DADT, or put his campaign rhetoric into writing by drafting his own legislation outlining precisely how to repeal DADT and enact a nondiscrimination policy. Many lawmakers in Washington are interested in President Obama’s view on DADT and are awaiting a roadmap from him.”
Department of Defense regulations adopted early in 1981 stated clearly that homosexuality is incompatible with military service. A 1993 U.S. statute codified those regulations, almost word for word.
Under the original regulations, there was a routine question about homosexuality on induction forms, together with many others asked to determine eligibility to serve.
Enter President Bill Clinton, who wanted to nix the regulation re homosexuals openly serving.
Meeting with stalwart opposition, a compromise was reached where Congress allowed Clinton to suspend the asking of “the question” on the induction forms, but included the provision that it could be reinstated at any time. Hence, there followed the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, which has continued to the present time.
While organizations like Servicemembers Legal Defense Network welcome the latest clarification from Reid, Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness finds it ominous.
In a recent interview with Newsmax, Donnelly said she hopes that the American public comprehends the importance of the issue.
“It is imperative that the law be defended, since repeal would do great harm to the ‘3 R’s,’ recruiting, retention, and readiness in the only military we have,” she said.
“Repeal also would do irreparable harm to the culture of the military, which depends on high morale, discipline, and unit cohesion based on mutual trust. Introducing unprecedented, demoralizing sexual tension into all military units, including Marine and Army infantry, Special Operations Forces, Navy SEALS and submarines, would be tantamount to forcing military women to live constantly with men in conditions of little or no privacy.
“Corollary ‘zero tolerance’ policies would force out of the military anyone who disagrees -- starting with the chaplains. Denied promotions end military careers,” she concluded.
Of course, there are some compelling arguments on the other side of the issue.
Advocates for allowing gays to serve openly in the military point to the British and Israeli armies -- armed forces that they say have not suffered from a breakdown of good order and discipline since homosexuals were assimilated into their ranks.
Indeed, the United States is the only member of NATO to maintain such a ban. Canada and Australia, like England and Israel, allow gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly.
Others lament the scores of valued Mideast language experts that have been separated for the sole reason of being gay. In a time of war, the nation cannot afford to disallow a whole class of people from serving.
According to a recent report in the St. Petersburg Times, more than 12,500 men and women have been discharged from the military since the 1993 passage of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” including more than 60 Arabic linguists. The estimated cost of replacing them is more than $364 million.
Still others look beyond the pragmatics and argue that the apparent discrimination against gays in the military is a final stain on the nation’s civil rights record that simply needs to be removed.
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