The policy has seen its fair share of controversy since its implementation in 1993. Since its introduction, the U.S. military has discharged over 14,000 servicemen and women (although those discharges decreased sharply in the post-9/11 world). Even Lady GaGa has garnered attention this year leading a crusade to repeal the ban for what she calls an “archaic” policy.
When the effort to repeal the ban failed to get a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate back in September, gay rights advocates across the country expressed their disappointment.
But for those of you waiting for the right time and opportune moment for the ban to be repealed, this is it. With the midterm elections over and one month of the “lame duck” session remaining between now and January 3rd for the 111th United States Congress, now’s the time to ramp up the efforts and grease the wheels with everything left in the arsenal before the incoming Republican House majority ends all hope.
I really have to question the Democrats’ sincerity in wanting to repeal the ban. Sure it made for popular campaign rhetoric, but if it was high on their priority list, they had a four month window between 4/28/09 (when Arlen Specter switched to Democrat) and 8/25/09 (Ted Kennedy’s passing) when they held a filibuster-proof 60 seat Senate majority. What did they focus their efforts on instead? Ramming the healthcare bill through.
Then they finally decide to introduce a bill to repeal the ban 9/21/10…six weeks before a midterm election as a tack-on to another bill! Either the Democrats are clueless as to when’s the best time to push for repealing a controversial policy or they don’t really care.
But now the Dems are paying it lip service again trying to pass everything they got left on their “wish list” with one month left to go before the new Congress takes over.
The Pentagon finally released its long awaited report on the effects of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) yesterday that pretty much reflected how the general public feels about the policy. Not only have Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (a Republican by the way and the only holdover left in the White House from the Bush Administration) and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both repeatedly endorsed repealing the ban, but the Pentagon also conducted their own survey amongst the armed forces asking for their opinion on the matter.
A full two-thirds of the military said they “don’t care” if the ban is lifted. Only 30% objected to repealing the ban (most of them in combat units).
Of that 30%, 40% went so far as to say it would be a “bad idea”, most of them being Marine combat troops.
But a summary of the report concluded that 69% of respondents believed they had already served alongside a gay person and of those who believed that, 92% said their units were able to work together while only 8% said the units functioned poorly as a result.
One member of the special operations force was even quoted as saying, “We have a gay guy. He’s big, he’s mean and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cares that he’s gay.”
The results of the study largely reflect the majority of public opinion.
Gallup conducted a poll 18 months ago measuring public opinion on DADT and found virtually every ideological group is now in favor of repealing the ban.
Not only do 86% of self-described liberals and 77% of self-described moderates support homosexuals openly serving in our armed forces, but even 58% of self-described conservatives and 60% of weekly churchgoers are onboard as well. Overall, 69% of the general public supports repealing the ban.
More women the men support repealing DADT by 73% to 64%. While those 65+ years of age were the lowest in support of the repeal amongst age groups, and the South ranked last amongst regions, even the majorities of both these groups still support repealing DADT, at 60% and 57% respectively.
Another CNN poll conducted earlier this year found that 78% of the general public supports repealing the ban, while polls conducted by Pew Research and Quinnipiac both found 58% of the public supporting repeal.
The Final Vote
The House already passed the bill to repeal DADT back in May which now means it is two (Republican) Senate votes shy of making it to President Obama’s desk.
Bringing the bill to the Senate floor six weeks before a midterm election proved to be too risky. But with the campaigns a month behind us now, there are 5 potential Republican Senate votes in play this December.
Gay rights advocates’ best bet are the centrist Republican Senators of Maine: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. With the exception of “Obamacare” and the cap and trade bill, pretty much every major piece of legislation the Democrats got through Congress these last two years passed the Senate with these ladies’ votes (the stimulus, the omnibus, the financial regulation bill, unemployment benefits extension, even Elena Kagan’s appointment to the Supreme Court).
While both senators would not cross the aisle during the September vote (despite Lady GaGa’s attempts to influence their vote with a rally she held in Maine earlier that month), both admitted they would wait for the Pentagon study to make their final decision on the matter.
Another potential vote who also said he’d wait for the findings of the Pentagon study is Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.
Two centrist Republican wild cards in the Senate may also be Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Dick Luger of Indiana.
However, a move Republicans made today may give them an excuse to not even vote on the matter and anger gay rights advocates even more.
All 42 Senate Republicans signed a pledge today to block any and all legislation through the Senate between now and Christmas until the expiring Bush tax cuts are extended and a budget is passed for 2011. If the Democrats let the tax cuts go for everybody, the Republicans will have an excuse to hold off of voting on everything else (including repealing DADT) and the chances of a Republican House passing a bill to repeal the ban during the next Congress is slim to null.
The Time to Act is Now
The American public is for it. The military is for it. The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are for it.
What I’m trying to figure out is of the slim number of vocal opponents left, why is Senator John McCain, of all people, the one leading the effort to keep the ban in place? He used to be one of the only centrist Republicans in the Senate for decades. Maybe he was burned so bad when he thought it would take him to the White House in 2008 he decided to take a hard right in the two years since.
But this is the wrong issue to be defending. With overwhelming research and support to repeal this thing, its time to let this one go.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates summed it up best when he said, “The ban on openly gay military service requires people to lie.” He called for quick senate action while concluding:
“We spend a lot of time in the military talking about integrity and honor and values. Telling the truth is a pretty important value in that scale.”
This isn’t a vote on the morality of homosexuality. It’s simply a vote to allow anyone the constitutional right to defend and fight for their country. This is why the majority of the American public supports it and why Washington, D.C. has the perception of being detached from mainstream America.