Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 2, 2010

DADT HEARING.... The Senate Armed Services Committee, for the first time in 17 years, convened a hearing today on whether the U.S. military should allow Americans to wear a uniform, regardless of their sexual orientation. It went pretty well, though there are some lingering concerns about implementing a change in policy.

The nation's top two Defense officials called on Tuesday for an end to the 16-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" law, a major step toward allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the United States military for the first time in its history.

"No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens," Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said it was his personal belief that "allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do."

That quote, in and of itself, is an important milestone. The nation's highest ranking military officer -- appointed by a conservative Republican president, no less -- stated his unambiguous opposition to the discriminatory and ineffective status quo. This is a first for a sitting chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Indeed, after the hearing, Adm. Mullen reiterated his position on Twitter, insisting that he "stands by" what he told the committee: "Allowing homosexuals to serve openly is the right thing to do. Comes down to integrity."

But the way forward is not quite as clear-cut as some of us would prefer. Ideally, DADT repeal would be added to the Defense budget, it would be approved by both chambers, and the policy would be no more.

Alas, implementation will apparently be more complicated. The Pentagon is creating a review panel on changing the policy, which "could take up to a year." It's not altogether clear how this would unfold, but ideally, Congress would change the law with the budget, and the new, more sensible policy would begin in January.

In the meantime, Gates also said this morning that the Defense Department intends to enforce the status quo "in a fairer manner" until the repeal is complete, suggesting that the Pentagon will likely be disinclined to discharge servicemen and women who are "outed" by third parties or jilted partners. The secretary said he believes the Pentagon has "a degree of latitude within the existing law to change our internal procedures."

All things considered, the steps forward seem to be moving in the right direction.

Steve Benen 3:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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Comments

This might be a dumb question, but... why exactly would implementing an "Ask and Tell all you Want" policy be difficult?

Posted by: Mike D on February 2, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

I read that cranky curmudgeonly John McCain disagrees because of his anecdotal talks not with soldiers - but with VETERANS.

McCain is just hopelessly out of date.

Posted by: Walt on February 2, 2010 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Sullivan pulled a quote from Andrew Exum that expresses what Walt's saying perfectly:

Congressmen and members of the public should pay less attention to the many retired flag officers (average date of commission: 1835) who oppose homosexuals openly serving in the U.S. military and should instead poll serving U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. That's who Laura Miller and RAND will be polling. Their opinions, when combined with the desired policy preferences of the greater U.S. public, should be what matters. I could care less what some dude who garrisoned Shanghai in 1932 thinks.
Posted by: Snarky Bastard on February 2, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I had the same question as Mike D. Could it be it takes time to change hearts and minds in our own military? And being attached to a budgeting bill, well, there has to be a joke in there somewhere but I'm sure it has more to do with the way Washington does bidness.

Posted by: Kevin on February 2, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Mike D; I don't understand why implementation would be difficult. Basically it's just a matter of not kicking people out if they are gay. President Obama already started this by saying that they weren't going to kick anyone out this year (at least I think that was what he said).

Posted by: JCtx on February 2, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

From what I have gathered, if you can repeal DADT, that means you can bring it back later (with a Republican majority in Congress) with "prettier" language. The administration is trying to make sure once they are gone the repeal sticks no matter who is running the Gov.

Posted by: Frank Chow on February 2, 2010 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, Frank, but think what you'd have to do to restore DADT: Go through the ranks discharging every out servicemember who's been there for years. The key to preventing that is to maximize the time for out people to accumulate in the ranks before the government changes.

Posted by: Suzii on February 2, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

I don't care about polls, whether they're of active-duty military or retired. The USA has a professional military, and part of being a professional is being able to deal with your peers fairly no matter what their race, creed, or sexual preference might be. Sometimes you have to do what's right, not what's popular.

Posted by: me2i81 on February 2, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Duncan Hunter was on All Things Considered describing Mullen as a "political appointee" and referring to "shower issues".

Is every other nation on earth similarly afflicted by stupid people the way we are?

Posted by: bob h on February 2, 2010 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

[...] the Pentagon will likely be disinclined to discharge servicemen and women who are "outed" by third parties or jilted partners.

Which, by limiting the scope of the problem, will lead to less motivation to repeal the whole repellent law, once and for all. When we're losing thousands of trained and needed soldiers, during a war, it's a big problem. If we're not losing them, then it's not a problem. Or, only to those who have to continue living in a closet. That the door to the closet will be slightly cracked instead of being fully closed, doesn't make such life any less suffocating.

Posted by: exlibra on February 2, 2010 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

As a retired veteran perhaps I can clear up a few things...
The reason for the request for a study on how to implement the policy is not to allow time to debate on "separate showers" or any other inane subject, but rather:
How does this affect the military's policy on dependents and how does the military's implementation of equal treatment for gays and lesbians then affect the administration's attitude toward DoMA?
Several states now permit gays/lesbians to marry or contract civil unions. The military provides benefits, including housing, medical benefits and survivorship pension rights for dependents of military members. So most likely, the request is based on the necessity to study how the military will cope with not only same-sex marriages, but also civil unions; especially since there is nothing corresponding to "civil unions" for opposite sex marriages. I fully expect the Republicans to begin whining about "special treatment" for gays and lesbians as soon as some unmarried straight couple complains about not receiving the same benefits as a gay couple in a civil union.
Then there is the question of how this would affect the administration's stance on DoMA. If the US military allows same-sex couples the same benefits as opposite-sex couples; then, DoMA notwithstanding, the Federal government is recognizing and providing benefits to same-sex couples.
That latter is what is going to cause any sticking points and it can best be solved by repealing both DADT and DoMA via the Defense Appropriations Bill. The repeal of DADT should be an integral part of the Bill as it deals with manning; the repeal of DoMA can be done as an amendment, to ensure the equal treatment of all US military members and their dependents.
There, wasn't that simple? I wish...

Posted by: Doug on February 2, 2010 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Too many uptight heterosexual men have a not-reality-based self-image that makes them believe gay men want to stare at them in the shower. Sadly, they also think they're equally irresistable to women. It explains why most of them are single, puzzled, and drinking in singles bars every Friday night.

Posted by: GringoNoraca on February 2, 2010 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: GringoNoraca on February 2, 2010 at 7:02 PM

Perfect! I couldn't have said it better myself!

Posted by: electrolite on February 2, 2010 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Amen, Gringo!

I think some of these straight military men have two fears:

Gays will find them attractive.

Gays WON'T find them attractive.

Either way, you can't have 'em in the showers.

Posted by: Eeyore on February 2, 2010 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

Here's why you just can't wave away DADT with an executive order or some such. DADT is a policy, true. However, it is a policy inasmuch as it is a specific implementation of an Article in the UCMJ that prohibits homosexual conduct. Unless your name is John Yoo, you should not believe that the President can simply order the military to ignore the law. Therefore, as a legal matter, the UCMJ needs to be revised by Congress. In the meantime, Gates has suggested changing the implementation so that in essence, people will only be kicked out if they accuse themselves (this actually happens on a regular basis...it's a relatively popular method of getting out of deployment).

Posted by: details on February 2, 2010 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

bob h,

I'll see your Duncan Hunter, and raise you a Steve King (from the Omaha World Herald):

"Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said it's easy to envision the problems that openly gay soldiers could cause if you imagine an all-homosexual military unit or brigade. A brigade would have problems with 'open promiscuity' and ineffectiveness, he said."

Posted by: 2Manchu on February 2, 2010 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said it's easy to envision the problems that openly gay soldiers could cause if you imagine an all-homosexual military unit or brigade. A brigade would have problems with 'open promiscuity' and ineffectiveness, he said."
Posted by: 2Manchu on February 2, 2010 at 11:05 PM

Why do I have no problem believing that Steve King secretly would love to serve in whatever his confused mind considers an "all-homosexual brigade?" What is it with all these self-loathing, repressed rightwingers, anyway?

Posted by: electrolite on February 2, 2010 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Saxby Chambliss of GA said that a repeal of DADT would cause, among other things, “Alcohol use, adultery, fraternization, and body art.”

Interesting. And definitely shows how culturally aware some of these folks really are...

Full article here: http://blogs.ajc.com/cynthia-tucker/2010/02/02/chambliss-if-gays-serve-therell-be-omg-tattoos/?cxntfid=blogs_cynthia_tucker

Posted by: Audra on February 2, 2010 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Saxby Chambliss of GA said that a repeal of DADT would cause, among other things, “Alcohol use, adultery, fraternization, and body art.”

Christ, next they'll be listening to that rock 'n' roll!

Posted by: electrolite on February 2, 2010 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Christ, next they'll be listening to that rock 'n' roll!"
Posted by: electrolite on February 2, 2010 at 11:59 PM

Don't be ridiculous. These are Republicans we're talking about here.
They'd clearly be concerned that the warriors might want to listen to "race music."
Well, except for James Watt, that is. (He's the one who, while Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, banned the Beach Boys from playing the July 4 concert in Washington as they had done for each of the preceding 5 years, saying they drew "an undesirable element." Since Nancy Reagan was definitely a fan, and ol' Ron might have been as well, at least Watt got that part right.)

Posted by: smartalek on February 3, 2010 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Why do Republicans hate America? Don't they want our military to have the equivalent of the Sacred Band of Thebes, the most feared elite force in the Grecian world, entirely composed of male couples? They were considered invincible until finally smashed by Alexander the Great, coincidentally obsessed with his great love and talented general, Hephaistion. Hmmm, maybe there should be a DADT for straights since the Greeks conquered the known world with a lot of dude-on-dude action in the barracks.

Posted by: GringoNoraca on February 3, 2010 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK
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