Saturday, May 1, 2010
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told the House Armed Services Committee to not repeal the ban on openly gay and lesbian Americans serving in the military.
Candidate Barack Obama pledged to repeal the viciously homophobic, Clinton-era policy called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and as president, has come under pressure to act immediately to suspend enforcement of the policy until Congress sends him a bill to sign to end the ban.
In a letter to House Armed Services Committee panel’s chairman, Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton, Gates and Mullen said:
“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. [Repealing the ban before] would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter.”
Since Mr. Obama was sworn in as president on January 20, 2009, 792 Americans have been discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Adding to the 13,500 previously discharged since the policy became law in 1993.
In a statement by Aubrey Sarvis, executive director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), Sarvis wasted no time repudiating the stall tactics by Gates, Mullen and the White House:
“The President of the United States appears to have reversed himself from what he told the American people in his State of the Union Address. We have the votes in the House and we’re close to having the votes in the Senate Armed Services Committee — the President, however, is not helping us to get the votes we need. Service members around the world took the President at his word; we still do.
“It’s time for the president and commander in chief to speak clearly and frankly on this issue. The commander in chief sounds like he is deferring to his Defense Secretary, to a House Chairman who opposes him on repeal, and to his political operatives.
“With all due respect to Secretary Gates, it is Congress that determines the legislative schedule, not the Secretary of Defense. Congressional leaders and repeal advocates may need to give the Pentagon leaders a gentle reminder.
“Servicemembers Legal Defense Network repudiates the delay game plan worked out among House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, and the White House. Repeal legislation can and should move forward this year that is most respectful of the Pentagon Working Group.
“This objective can be accomplished by amending both the House and Senate bills to expressly provide for the Pentagon recommendations to be received and considered by the Armed Services Committees before any repeal action is final. There is no need to bring the legislative repeal effort to a screeching halt to ensure that the views of the Pentagon Working Group are carefully and respectfully considered. If the White House agrees, we need to hear that and soon.”
As I have said many times before, if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t repealed before the end of President Obama’s first term, he will have an extremely difficult time making a compelling case to his LGBT base why they should reward him with a second term as president.