Rev Irene Monroe

Will Tea Party climate repeal "Don't ask, don't tell"?

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | September 16, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Don't Ask Don't Tell, federal court, gays in the military, military, Tea Party

With the global kerfuffle about an Islamophobic minister, Rev. Terry Jones of Gainesville, gays-military-1-2.jpgFlorida, threatening to burn the Koran on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, little attention last week was given to a federal district court judge's ruling that the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) ban on gays and lesbians serving openly is unconstitutional.

"In order to justify the encroachment on these rights, defendants faced the burden at trial of showing the 'Don't ask, don't tell' act was necessary to significantly further the government's important interests in military readiness and unit cohesion. Defendants failed to meet that burden," the judge wrote.

While it is a laudable act that the California judge, Virginia A. Phillips, struck down former President Bill Clinton's 1993 policy that bars lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) servicemembers from the military, how does her action strengthen the Pentagon's study, a review due this Dec. 1 on how to maintain the military's "unit cohesion" while integrating LGBTQ servicemembers, in our favor?

At the end of the day, despite Judge Phillips' historic ruling, the plight of our LGBTQ servicemembers remain unchanged.

To date, more than 13,500 LGBTQ servicemembers have been discharged under DADT, and the number continues to grow.

Polls have revealed, however, that where the country was in 1993 with DADT is vastly different from where the country is today. As a matter of fact, most Americans -- even Republicans -- are not adverse to the military having LGBTQ servicemembers.

In May, with a vote of 230 to 191, the House of Representatives passed to repeal DADT. On the same day the House passed to repeal DADT, so too did the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"This legislation will help make our armed forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity," President Obama told the Associated Press.

Supporters of lifting the ban argue that allowing LGBTQ servicemembers to serve openly would improve the military because it would draw tens of thousands of additional recruits. And government reports have shown that many of our LGBTQ servicemembers who have been discharged under DADT had critical skills, such as foreign-language proficiency, that are in great demand for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

And just last week a surprise Twitter feed of "One Man, One Woman," a group that describes itself as "working to preserve, protect, and defend the institution of marriage between a man and a woman," wrote, "There is no need to prohibit gays and lesbians from openly serving in the Armed Forces. They should have the opportunity to serve."

But with the momentum of Tea Party candidates, who are anti-Obama, anti-abortion, and anti-gay civil rights, unseating long-term Republican incumbents in this recent primary aggressively trying to retake Congress and with midterm elections now just weeks away the chances of repealing DADT is looking slimmer.

Also, with both Republican and Democratic candidates revving up to campaign for midterm elections, playing to their bases concerns about taxes and the economy, putting pressure on the Senate to vote immediately to repeal the policy is not likely.

With the military having the real power to either overturn or to uphold DADT, where does this really leave our LGBTQ servicemembers?

For many in the LGBTQ community, we are anxious about the repeal of DADT coming to fruition, hoping for the President and his administration to effect real and substantive change on our behalf.

But given the political climate now, could Obama have done something sooner to repeal DADT?

I think so.

For example, in 2008, as a campaign promise to LGBTQ voters, Senator Obama empathetically stated he would repeal the discriminatory policy; he campaigned on a full repeal of the law. Soon after Obama's inauguration in 2009, the LGBTQ community waited anxiously to hear that steps were being made to repeal DADT. But on June 8 of that year when the Supreme Court refused to review the Pentagon policy that prohibits LGBTQ servicemembers to serve openly in the military, Obama's people added salt to the wounds of our LGBTQ servicemembers by stating in court papers that the ruling on DADT was correct because of the military's legitimate concern of LGBTQ servicemembers endangering "unit cohesion" -- a concept totally debunked by a 2002 study.

Back in the day, LGBTQ servicemembers who died while servicing our country were either closeted about their sexual orientation or were discharged under "honorable conditions" called "Fraudulent Enlistment."

Unfortunately, today not much has changed.

And come Dec. 1, if DADT isn't repealed in this Tea Party climate not only will have the Obama administration reneged on its promise to LGBTQ servicesmembers, but it will have reneged also on American troops being the strongest they could be.

Our LGBTQ servicemembers are prepared to defend this country with their lives, but not all of our servicemembers are honored for their acts of bravery and patriotism.

The war they should be fighting is the one that awaits them out there -- not the war here at home.

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"For example, in 2008, as a campaign promise to LGBTQ voters, Senator Obama empathetically stated he would repeal the discriminatory policy; he campaigned on a full repeal of the law."

Could you provide a source for this assertion?

There are many resources for what Obama said during the campaign on this...look it up yourself.

Obama said he "would work with Congress to end DADT."

It's clear he's been working with Congress. The US Senate is saying "no." So, where is the "broken promise."

It's juvenile to believe the Obama can simply wave his Presidential wand and make DADT go away. Plus, the record shows he didn't "promise" anything but his effort.

Obama may not have a magic wand, but he does have a presidential pen with which he could single-handedly sign a stop-loss Executive Order ... if he really wanted to ... and the discharges would end immediately (until a future president rescinds the Executive Order).

Obama and Congress are both foot-dragging, knowing that they will be off the hook once both houses of Congress have more Republican seats after the mid-term election. In other words, for political reasons they are squandering a golden opportunity.

The military's previous anti-gay policy was merely administrative and could have been revoked by any President after Reagan, but Barney Frank and President Clinton betrayed us all in 1993 by enacting DADT as a federal law.

That means that President Obama cannot "simply" order DADT halted as so many people have mistakenly claimed. Under the terms explicitly laid out in the law, the President has the authority to temporarily suspend enforcement of DADT during wartime, but cannot reverse the policy. President Obama correctly decided not to issue such a hold because doing so would take away the pressure on Congress to actually repeal the law, which is the only long-term solution.

Well we have been at war now for Obama's full term in office and he seems to have no plans to end it. In addition Bush declared war on terrorism and that too is not predicted to end anytime soon. So what's the problem?

Andrew just...please.

War? What are we really talking about here? I openly admit I am an avowed pacifist. I would prefer that all Americans be prohibited from serving on foreign soil unless this country's very existence is threatened. That was clearly not the case in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Now how does that play into DADT? Very simply. In a real threat situation nobody will be concerned about sexual orientation or even sexual identity. To paraphrase Barry Goldwater ... I don't care who they want to sleep with but rather whether they can shoot straight. How simple is that? The problems only surface when the U.S. is playing big brother to the world. I don't fault Obama on DADT but rather on his cowtowing to the military/industrial complex. He is Bush lite in that regard. Change? I don't see no friggin change.

With all this movement on DADT lately, you'd think the discharges would have stopped by now. But even after the House, a Senate subcommittee, a federal court and the President have said the policy should be scrapped, the discharges continue.

... True, and Obama is personally to blame. See my comment above to Andrew W.

Obama didn't act because he wants a second term. That's politics. What did you expect? Leadership? That rarely happens.

You said:
"While it is a laudable act that the California judge, Virginia A. Phillips, struck down former President Bill Clinton's 1993 policy that bars lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) servicemembers from the military . . ."

DADT only covers sexual orientation, not gender identity. Trans people will still get kicked out after DADT is repealed. For a queer person, this depends on why the person identifies as queer, more toward their sexual orientation or more toward their gender identity on whether DADT will affect them, or some other regulation will affect them.