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"Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:" The Politics of Repeal

Updated on March 24, 2011

By a vote of 255 to 175, the US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a stand-alone bill overturning the controversial policy barring openly gay and lesbian soldiers from serving in the US military.

But there are no guarantees that this bill, championed by the current Nancy Polesi-led House Democratic Leadership, would attract expedited affirmative action in the US Senate. After all, a similar repeal action previously taken by the House of Representatives as part of a larger defense authorization bill was most conveniently allowed to be tangled in procedural cross-hairs.

Conservative Republicans in the Senate, most notably John McCain (the ranking Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee) and Lindsey Graham (widely recognized and respected as a leading GOP spokesman on defense matters), remain as unbending and resolute in their opposition as ever.

McCain and Graham, both decorated service men themselves, generally ridicule the DADT repeal effort as ill-advised and misguided.

When they are not busy attacking President Obama and labelling it as "a political promise made by an inexperienced president or candidate for president of the United States," they are comfortable applying one of several worn excuses: that with “recruitment, retention, professionalism and capability” at record points, suggestions that the policy has been damaging to the military are disingenuous; that repeal would negatively impact battle effectiveness and morale; or that overturning the policy now would place an unreasonable burden on the military at a time when it is already facing severe strains in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

For awhile, McCain and Graham masterfully indicated that they would table or defer final judgment on the issue pending the release of the long-awaited report based on an extensive survey of a representative sample of men and women currently serving in all areas of the US military. But when the report came out in resounding support of repeal, both men reverted to the same proven tactics of delay, trammel and obfuscation.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, otherwise known as DADT, currently in its 17th year, is mandated by federal statutes and basically prohibits service men and women who "demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" from continued service in the US armed forces as it is believed that their presence "would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability."

DADT evolved as a compromise measure between President Bill Clinton, who hitherto campaigned on the promise to allow all citizens to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation, and a Republican-controlled Congress sworn to an absolute ban policy. Its origin is traceable to the Clinton administration’s Defense Directive 1304.26 which on December 21, 1993, proclaimed that military applicants were not to be asked about their sexual orientation.

Till date, approximately 15,000 service men and women have been summarily expelled for violating the policy.

That DADT is blighted and discriminatory is irrefragable. It is an immanent affront to the very principles that service men and women routinely swear to uphold: duty, honor and integrity.

It is frankly difficult to understand how any decent, forward-thinking human being can bold-facedly defend this abstruse and most primitive policy. One has to be certifiably daft to truly believe that a service man and woman’s sexual orientation can be so successfully concealed; or that its disclosure instinctively compromises the unit’s battle readiness or the concerned individual’s ability to gallantly live up to his/her uniform’s calling.

Apart from the Survey results from the rank and file, both civilian and military leaders at the Pentagon have been unanimous in their support for the repeal of DADT.

Starting from the premise that it was a simple matter of right and wrong, Defense Secretary Robert Gates concluded that “a policy that requires people to lie about themselves” seems “fundamentally flawed."

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, on his part, sought to allay lingering fears that repealing DADT would impact military morale or readiness. He unequivocally stated that "This is a policy that we can do and we can do it in a relatively low-risk fashion."

I’d like to end by saying that the fact that tens of thousands of our young service men and women have been forced to labor, and die, under this insufferable and ignoble policy is a national shame. Allowing DADT to endure, even for one extra day, is a scourge on the conscience of this country. The US Senate must join the US House of Representatives in taking action, as necessary, in the few days left of this lame duck session of Congress to totally repudiate the policy.


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    • Arum I. Arum profile image

      Arum I. Arum 7 years ago from Columbus, OH

      @ OpinionDuck, disagree with what exactly?

    • OpinionDuck profile image

      OpinionDuck 7 years ago

      I disagree

    • Arum I. Arum profile image

      Arum I. Arum 7 years ago from Columbus, OH

      @Greg, I totally agree that one's sexual orientation has no bearing whatsoever and should never detract or overshadow the decision to serve, defend and die protecting the country. @ Nicomp, that DADT will soon be a shadow in our inglorious past ought to be celebrated by any decent, fair-minded citizen of this great nation.

    • gregas profile image

      Greg Schweizer 7 years ago from Corona, California.

      Hi Arum, I just have one question. What difference does it make what their sexual orientation is? They can save lives, serve their country and die just like anyone else. They join of their own free will and should be allowed to serve their country without having to hide behind some "bill" that was passed because certain people can't face the way the world is these days. A lot more open minded than it used to be. Greg

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Kudos to the House for passing a stand-alone bill rather than hiding the legislation in a snail darter protection omnibus bill.

      At the very least, the congresspeople will have nowhere to hide when asked to explain their vote.