28 May 2010

Full House and Senate Armed Services Committee pass repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; but opposition in full Senate expected

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed, 229 - 186, the National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 5136, which contained a provision to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell - a Clinton-era enacted policy which banned open gays from serving in America's armed forces.

In a press release issued this evening Army veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ("SLDN") Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said “with today’s successful final passage vote on the defense budget bill, the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ continues to move forward. We now look to the full senate to pass DADT repeal by mid-summer and bring the defense bill to the President’s desk by October 1."

"While the votes in the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee are historic, it is important for all gay and lesbian, active-duty service members, including those in the reserves and the national guard, to know they’re at risk. They must continue to serve in silence under the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that remains on the books. Congress and the Pentagon need to stay on track to get repeal finalized, hopefully no later than first quarter 2011. We thank House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Patrick Murphy for their leadership and working to make sure we had a solid vote in the face of tough opposition," said Sarvis.

Yesterday the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a repeal to Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was quick to issue a press release indicating that he "deeply regret[s] that the Senate Armed Services Committee voted today to pass the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ amendment."

"This vote short circuits the ongoing Pentagon review of the policy and thereby denies our men and women in uniform a chance to have their voices heard on an important issue that affects them and their service. That is why all four Service Chiefs opposed legislative action at this time. The vote today is a de facto repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law, and I am concerned that the men and women of our military will view this preemptive political action as a deep sign of disrespect and unwillingness to consider their views,” said McCain.

I have previously discussed the Pentagon's review of DADT here and here.

NOT SO FAST - MURPHY AMENDMENT

Prior to today's passage, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.) offered an amendment to the repeal of DADT which passed by 234-194 on Thursday. The Murphy amendment dismantles the current DADT policy only after the Pentagon completes its review process and after Department of Defense leaders certify that repeal would not harm national security or military readiness.

H.AMDT 672 (aka: the Murphy Amendment) provides: "An amendment numbered 79 printed in House Report 111-498 to repeal Dont Ask Dont Tell only after: (1) receipt of the recommendations of the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group on how to implement a repeal of DADT (due December 1, 2010) and (2) a certification by the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and President that repeal is first, consistent with military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion & recruiting, and second, that the DoD has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement its repeal. It would also include a 60 day period after certification before the repeal took effect."

SLDN CAUTIONS NOT TO COME OUT YET

SLDN issued this warning to servicemembers indicating that DADT is still in effect and not to come out. Highlights of SLDN's statement are:
  • Do NOT come out.
  • "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" remains the law until this process is complete.
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members are still being discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and they will continue to be discharged until this process is complete.
  • Continue to check with SLDN to learn about how the latest political developments will impact your ability to serve openly.
On Thursday American Forces Press Service reported here that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen is comfortable with impending repeal votes expected in the House and Senate.

The full Senate is due to take up the House passed H.R. 5136 next month where there is expected to be significant opposition by conservative lawmakers.

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