As liberals have noted with consternation, the Obama Administration has been spinning its wheels on ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. While the administration has talked a good game – and while I believe they have wanted to end the policy – they haven’t made significant headway with Congress.
President Obama reached a deal with key Democrats on Monday that could repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy governing gays and lesbians in the military – assuming Congress signs on.
The proposal would let lawmakers vote now to repeal the law and allow people who are openly gay to serve, once the president and top military leaders certify that the repeal wouldn’t threaten the military’s “readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention,” according to documents the sponsors sent to the administration.
The White House replied that the proposal “meets the concerns” raised by the Pentagon and that the Obama administration supported it.
Voting before the November election – in which Democrats are expected to lose seats – gives the proposal its best chance at passage.
In effect, the agreement comes down to wording. The Obama Administration had been pushing for an outright repeal and reversal of DADT – passing a law integrating the military. Instead, the new language appears to be designed to return things to status quo ante, returning control to the military with regard to when, and how, to integrate, as was the case prior to 1993.
At first blush, that appears to be slightly problematic – after all, the military has previously resisted efforts to integrate LGBT soldiers into the armed forces. But given that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the defense secretary both support ending the policy – and given that they’ll get a strong push from the commander-in-chief – it’s hard to see the military choosing not to integrate when it’s all said and done.
And once integrated, it’s going to be politically impossible to return DADT into force. Sure, President Palin could push for it, but Americans already support ending the policy. And that’s before gays and lesbians are openly serving in the military. After it turns out that the military can handle non-straight soldiers without imploding, those numbers will only rise.
All in all, it’s a good step forward, one that should be completed along with the defense appropriations bill. We’re still a long way from being a country where LGBT individuals have full and equal rights. But hopefully, in a few months, we’ll be just a little bit closer to where we need to be.