“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Don’t Pursue” (DADT) began in 1993, regarding gays and lesbians serving in the United States Military. The policy was a compromise between former President Bill Clinton, who wanted repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay personnel, and opponents, Sen. Sam Nunn (R-GA) and Sen. Barry Goldwater (R.-AZ).
According to The Washington Times, an estimated 13,000 people have been discharged as a result of the law since it was enacted. Military commanders do not ask military personnel about their sexual orientation or begin an investigation except under receipt of “homosexual conduct.”
On Tuesday, the Senate delivered a setback to the Obama administration’s efforts to repeal the ban on openly gay and lesbian people serving in the military.
Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Sen. Mark Pryor sided with Republicans in a 56-43 vote opposing the measure. According to ABC News, gay rights advocates expressed disappointment at the vote but hope the Senate will act to repeal the law after the November midterm elections.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he would push for reconsideration of the policy during the lame duck Senate session, following the midterm elections. The Hill reported that Republicans objected to Reid’s plan to hold votes on several amendments to the bill, including the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants if those children serve in the military or attend college. This move is seen to boost Reid’s own reelection prospects by increasing his support among Nevada’s Hispanic population.
The Hill also reported that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who led the filibuster, blamed Reid for the standoff. McCain said the move was an attempt to win the Hispanic vote and to energize the gay and lesbian vote, in the case of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. If Republicans win control of the next Congress, it is unclear whether they will take up the matter that has been a campaign issue for Obama.
The repeal language may be easier to pass in the Senate after Dec. 1, when a Pentagon study on the effects of the repeal of DADT is completed. According to The New York Times, the Senate would not allow any repeal of the policy until after the Pentagon Study and Obama and top military commanders certify that ending DADT will not harm the morale or readiness of troops.
However, The New York Times also reported, while President Obama supports the repeal of the policy, the White House has already threatened to veto the House version of the military bill, over several provisions it opposes, including the authorization of $485 million for construction of an extra engine for the F-35 joint strike fighter, the administration says the new engine is wasteful.
According to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, more than 75 percent of American’s believe that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military; that rate of support is higher than at any other time since DADT took effect in 1993.
Carmen Singleton is an intern with C&E.
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