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Deal Reached on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal

Sponsors of a bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) have reached a deal with the White House to add an amendment to their bill that will require completion of a military review of the policy before a repeal can be enacted. Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Carl Levin (D-MI) and Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA) wrote in their letter to the White House that they “have developed a legislative proposal for consideration by the House and Senate that puts a process in place to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ once the working group has completed its review and you, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that repeal can be achieved consistent with the military’s standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.” White House Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orzag, wrote in a response that “the Administration is of the view that the proposed amendment meets the concerns raised by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” DADT was instituted by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 and prohibits the military from inquiring about a service member’s sexual orientation, but also calls for the discharge of anyone who acknowledges being lesbian or gay. Thus far, the policy has led to the expulsion of about 13,000 troops. According to the Washington Post, Congress will consider amendments that would repeal DADT very shortly, but with a provision that repeal would not go into effect until after the Pentagon completes its review of the policy, which is due to congress by December 1 of this year. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent a letter to Congress asking that they not move forward with a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) until the Pentagon completes a review of the policy earlier this month. At the time, the White House also released a statement supporting Secretary Gates’ Letter. In the letter, Gates said that a full Pentagon review is necessary prior to repeal of DADT because “our military must be afforded the opportunity to inform us of their concerns, insights, and suggestions if we are to carry out this change successfully.” Further, he wrote, “I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process” and also asked Congress not to change the policy yet “as it would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns, and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families.” The Pentagon announced in March 2010 that it will relax enforcement of DADT until Congress acts to repeal the policy. The military no longer investigates service members’ sexual orientation based on anonymous tips, is reducing third party testimony, and now requires high-level review of all expulsions based on sexual orientation. President Obama announced a promise to repeal DADT during his State of the Union Address on January 27. He said, “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.” In February, top US military leaders also announced they would conduct a year-long review of DADT during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. In March, Joe Lieberman (I-CT) introduced the current bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, in the Senate to repeal the policy.

Sources:

White House Letter 5/24/10; Congressional Letter to White House 5/24/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/3/10