Sunday, December 19, 2010

DADT Repealed At Long Last

Despite ongoing resistance by Republicans, the era of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is all but over. Eight Republicans joined the Democratic caucus to pass the repeal 65-31. The federal statute that required the military to discharge servicemembers who are gay or lesbian has been repealed, but the Defense Department has to enact procedural measures to carry out the repeal. That means that the executive order requiring the military to not ask about sexual orientation and servicemembers not to tell or else they would be discharged will come to an end.
It represented a significant victory for the White House, Congressional advocates of lifting the ban and activists who have pushed for years to end the Pentagon policy created in 1993 under the Clinton administration as a compromise effort to end the practice of barring gay men and lesbians entirely from military service.

Saying it represented an emotional moment for members of the gay community nationwide, advocates who supported repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” exchanged hugs outside the Senate chamber after the vote.

“Today’s vote means gay and lesbian service members posted all around the world can stand taller knowing that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will soon be coming to an end,” said Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and his party’s presidential candidate in 2008, led the opposition to the repeal and said the vote was a sad day in history.

“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage,” Mr. McCain said. “And we could possibly and probably, as the commandant of the Marine Corps said, and as I have been told by literally thousands of members of the military, harm the battle effectiveness vital to the survival of our young men and women in the military.”

He and others opposed to lifting the ban said the change could harm the unit cohesion that is essential to effective military operations, particularly in combat, and deter some Americans from enlisting or pursuing a career in the military. They noted that despite support for repealing the ban from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, other military commanders have warned that changing the practice would prove disruptive.

“This isn’t broke,” Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, said about the policy. “It is working very well.”

Other Republicans said that while the policy might need to be changed at some point, Congress should not do so when American troops are fighting overseas.
Ultimately, I'm not sure it will have any measurable effect on military efficiencies or combat readiness, but it will mean that gay and lesbian servicemembers will no longer be discharged if they announce their orientation. More than 14,000 servicemembers have been discharged under the policy, and that affects readiness because of the time and cost of training members and the lost skills that they bring to their service.

It eliminates a civil rights injustice and one that the courts may have resolved if Congress had not acted.

The Pentagon has surveyed thousands of members and found that it would not have been disruptive or caused the kinds of problems that Republicans had warned about.


Another significant result of the repeal is that college campuses that had previously refused to allow ROTC programs, will now reconsider. Harvard and Yale are already making preparations.

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