‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Opponents Plan to Take the Hill This Week
It’s not just in the Senate Armed Services committee’s mark-up of next fiscal year’s defense bill. While opponents of the military’s ban on open gay service target six senators — five Democrats and one Republican — to insert an amendment abolishing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this week, over in the House, they’ve got an ally ready to go. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.), a former Army captain and Iraq veteran, plans to introduce his own amendment to the Defense bill when it gets a floor vote later this week.
If you go to Murphy’s website, you’ll see an open letter from 15 mostly-senior retired officers from across the services arguing for a repeal of the 15-year old law. He comments alongside it, “To remove honorable, talented and patriotic troops from serving contradicts the American values our military fights for and our nation holds dear.”
Murphy’s position is commensurate with comments from February from Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who came out forcefully for repeal. Mullen’s boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, wants Congress to wait until the end of the year to move on overturning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (when a Pentagon working group, one Gates empaneled to canvas the services on constructive ways to incorporate open military service, delivers its report).
But anti-”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” activists argue that this week’s legislative push isn’t in conflict with the working group. “If the law is not repealed this year, when the implementation study comes down, [the Pentagon will] not able to carry it out,” said Michael Cole, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a group urging repeal. That’s similar to the position taken by retired Gen. John Shalikashvili, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of the first to implement the ban on open gay military service.
“[A]cting now to remove the constraints imposed by that law is the most faithful response that Congress can offer to the working group’s efforts to engage service members and their families,” Shalikashvili wrote in The Washington Post over the weekend, “to fully assess the impact of ending the policy, and to develop comprehensive recommendations for how to make the change.”
Update: Geoff Morrell, spokesman for Gates, says in an email that the Pentagon is taking a look at whatever’s developing legislatively for next steps on the repeal. “Given that Congress insists on addressing this issue this week, we are trying to gain a better understanding of the legislative proposals they will be considering,” Morrell said. (And sure enough, I see that the Post’s Ed O’Keefe also has that comment, along with suspicion that a compromise may actually be adopted…)