Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Get the Facts!

Today's Washington Post is reporting that President Obama has endorsed a "don't ask, don't tell" compromise between lawmakers and the Defense Department, the White House announced Monday, an agreement that may sidestep a key obstacle to repealing the military's policy banning gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed forces.

The compromise was finalized in meetings Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers will now, within days, vote on amendments that would repeal the Clinton-era policy, with a provision ensuring that any change would not take effect until after the Pentagon completes a study about its impact on troops. That study is due to Congress by Dec. 1.

In a letter to lawmakers pushing for a legislative repeal, White House budget director Peter Orszag wrote Monday that the administration "supports the proposed amendment."

"Such an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights and suggestions," he wrote.

While gay rights advocates hailed the move as a "dramatic breakthrough," it remained uncertain whether the deal would secure enough votes to pass both houses of Congress. Republicans have vowed to maintain "don't ask, don't tell," while conservative Democrats have said they would oppose a repeal unless military leaders made it clear that they approved of such a change.

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This Huffington Post article says that Obama administration threw its weight behind a compromise that will, over the next six months or so, lead to the dismantling of the policy. This was leadership on a historic scale by the administration as well as Speaker Pelosi, Senator Levin, and Congressmen Frank and Murphy.

Within hours, skeptical members of the gay community began accusing the Obama administration and the Democratic party of selling out. Why can't we have full repeal, and why can't we have it now? Why do we have to compromise? Some even went so far as to compare the compromise to Jim Crow, the racist, post-Civil War social order in the American south.

Members of the community are understandably concerned about some of the key provisions in the compromise. Most significantly, and contrary to our highest hopes, Congress is poised to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law, but probably will not instruct the Pentagon to adopt a non-discrimination policy. This means that, in theory, the military could continue to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Or, even if the Pentagon starts to treat gays and lesbians on an equal basis with everyone else, a future administration could undo progress. The community fears a return to the pre-Clinton days when the gay ban was a military regulation, not a law, and the Pentagon had free license to discriminate.

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