Posted by: Lauren--NY | April 3, 2010

Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell. …Ever?

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” ~Spencer Johnson

The recent passing of the health care bill was a huge accomplishment for President Obama and the Democrats, and whether people support the bill or they don’t, I hope they can at least take heart in the fact that in six months, little kids with cancer and diabetes won’t be kicked off their insurance policies anymore. Evidently, even a silver lining that obvious isn’t enough to appeal to some opponents. I hope the political climate cools down significantly before somebody makes good on one of their threats.

I also hope it dies down enough to prevent it from being a distraction when it comes to the other goals that this administration absolutely must get done–the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell being one of them. The lack of dialogue between our leaders and the public about this issue has been disappointing, and hyped-up, ultimately useless platitudes like the one given by the president during the State of the Union address don’t help. Having said that, there have been signs that the Pentagon was moving away from this policy even before President Obama took office: in July 2008, Lesley Stahl did a “60 Minutes” report for CBS News that revealed that discharges of gay and lesbian soldiers under DADT were actually dropping quite a bit. Ms. Stahl stated, “Discharges of gay soldiers are dropping dramatically. From over 1200 a year in 2001, to barely 600.”

The timing of this may be significant, as we have learned that a shocking number of Arabic translators have been discharged under the policy (59 as of this writing), including Lt. Dan Choi, and in a post-9/11 world we need them more than ever–particularly because it has been suggested that correspondence that went untranslated provided sufficient warning about the 9/11 attacks that may even have prevented them, had they been translated in time. Ms. Stahl’s report also makes a point of the fact that British troops have been allowed to serve as out gays and lesbians since 2000, with no reports of negative issues as a result.

It is encouraging that the current Congress and the Obama administration are finally starting to show signs of life on this issue; Senators Lieberman and Levin finally introduced the legislation to repeal DADT–the Military Readiness Enhancement Act–to the Senate back in early March. More powerfully, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the unexpected announcement that DADT would be amended so that gays and lesbians were less likely to be placed under investigation due to hearsay (third party sources must be under oath), and could not be placed under investigation due to confidential information that would fall under doctor-patient privilege, attorney-client privilege, or clergy-penitent privilege–effective immediately.

Encouraging as this is, and as encouraging as Admiral Mullen’s and Secretary Gates’s attitudes toward repeal are, we still have serious roadblocks such as Senator John McCain’s flip-flop and his daughter Meghan McCain’s deafening silence in response, despite her earlier fiery commentary demanding a repeal. Not to mention the bizarre irony that Secretary Gates can’t poll gay and lesbian soldiers to get their opinion on a repeal of DADT without outing them and violating DADT. It’s also discouraging that this poll is part of a long, drawn-out “study” being conducted by Secretary Gates on whether a repeal would be well-received–and the results of that study are not due to be finalized until December 1st, when the president will be briefed on them. That’s not good.

At this rate, the best we can do is keep contacting our Senators and holding their feet to the fire on getting this legislation passed, and hope we see it happen in the first half of 2011, because I just don’t see it happening before then. I hope I’m wrong.

As always, new readers can see what I’m all about at Laurie Beth’s Grotto. You can also check out the site overview and Twitter.

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