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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal to be Delayed

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. The White House also released a statement Friday supporting Secretary Gates’ Letter. 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. 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.” According to CNN, White House Spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement, “The president’s commitment to repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is unequivocal. This is not a question of if, but how…That’s why we’ve said that the implementation of any congressional repeal will be delayed until the DOD study of how best to implement that repeal is completed. The president is committed to getting this done both soon and right.” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in a statement, that “As a result of the Commander in Chief’s decision to defer to Secretary Gates’ wishes and timeline, gay service members will continue to be treated as second class citizens, and any sense of fairness may well have been delayed for yet another year, perhaps for another decade.” The Pentagon announced in March 2009 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 a bill, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, in the Senate to repeal the policy. This legislation will be discussed as part of the Annual Defense Authorization Bill by the Senate Armed Services Committee in May. In April, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that the House will likely consider legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) sometime this year. Hoyer acknowledged “some controversy” regarding the repeal and the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), but told Congressional Quarterly, that he doesn’t think there is “nearly as much controversy as there was.” ENDA will ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity except for in small businesses with fewer than 15 employees, the military and religious groups.

Sources:

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Press Release 5/1/10; Robert Gates Letter to Congress 4/30/10; CNN 4/30/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 4/14/10; Congressional Quarterly 4/13/10

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