"Don't ask, don't tell," is hanging by a thread. The American people don't support the ban on gays serving openly in the military. The House has voted to repeal it. A federal court has ruled it unconstitutional.
"Don't ask, don't tell," is hanging by a thread. The American people don't support the ban on gays serving openly in the military. The president, defense secretary and joint chiefs of staff don't support it. The House has voted to repeal it. A federal court has ruled it unconstitutional.
Now the troops in the field are saying they don't support DADT, either. A survey of 400,000 active duty and reserve troops, completed last summer as part of a soon-to-be-released Pentagon study, found that 70 percent said repealing the policy would be either positive, have no impact or have mixed impacts on troops in combat.
Opinion is not unanimous, of course. The commandant of the Marine Corps drew a rebuke from his superior officer for voicing his reservations about repealing DADT. But even in the Marines, the survey found, just 40 percent support DADT.
The military is not a democracy, nor does it demand perfect consensus before making policy decisions. However, the recent argument against allowing gays and lesbians to defend their country without lying about their identities is that “their presence will make other soldiers uncomfortable.” So it matters that most troops say they aren't bothered by it.
A single obstacle stands before the orderly termination of a 17-year-old mistake: the United States Senate.
The defense authorization bill, now before the Senate, includes language that would repeal DADT, letting the Pentagon determine the fate of the policy after its internal review, due to be completed Dec. 1. Before the election, the bill stalled in the face of a filibuster by Republicans.
It's time that filibuster was busted. It's time for the Senate to stop letting a minority view, which is opposed by majorities just about everywhere outside the Republican caucus, hold the defense budget hostage to their bias.
Discouraging noises are being heard from the White House and congressional Democrats that "the numbers aren't there" to repeal DADT. Such passive construction usually reveals a weakness of spirit.
It isn't enough for President Obama to say he favors repeal if he doesn't demand the Senate to act. It's not enough for Democrats to say they'd vote for repeal if they don't push their party's leaders to bring it up for a vote.
Sen. John Kerry, a senior Democrat and a veteran, has long supported repeal of DADT. He must now raise his voice even more loudly while refusing to support a "compromise" defense authorization bill that throws gay and lesbian service members overboard.
Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican who served 30 years in the Massachusetts National Guard, opposed repeal of DADT last spring, saying he needed more time to study the issue and wanted to see what the Pentagon review concluded.
Time is up, Senator, and the review will soon be in your hands. This is not a test of your loyalty to Republican Party leaders. It's a chance to represent your constituents and your brothers and sisters in uniform, and to show your independence and let military leaders do away with a policy that is discriminatory, unconstitutional and harmful to the troops.
Because it is so unpopular –– 78 percent of Americans favor repeal, one typical poll found, including 60 percent of Republicans –– "don't ask, don't tell" wasn't a big issue in the recent midterm elections. With the elections over, it's time the Senate did the right thing.