The battle over Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) has been going on for a while now, years really. If the subject itself was so serious and the process so agonizing the situation would almost be comical. There have been senate debates, panels, advertising from both sides of the issue but ultimately little has been done to progress the issue out of a congressional deadlock.
Well, that’s not entirely fair… Those who want to block the repeal of DADT have made several advances, and the fight to repeal it has come a long way since 1993.
The issue is both straightforward and complex, however, so perhaps some background is needed.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is the common name for a military policy put in place during the Clinton administration in 1993. The policy prevents those who “demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because 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.” This, of course, is the exact wording of the federal law. The law was meant as a compromise that would ultimately allow all US citizens to serve regardless of sexual orientation but when congress got hold of the policy they amended it so that the military had to follow the previous “absolute ban” policy. Clinton, in response to this, issued a formal directive that military personnel could not be asked about their sexual orientation by anyone. This became what we now know as “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.”
While all of this was happening in the legislature, the National Defense Research Institute conducted a study on the policy and found that “circumstances could exist under which the ban on homosexuals could be lifted with little or no adverse consequences for recruitment and retention.”
Since the implementation of DADT there have been four main court challenges, including one supreme court case, all falling to defeat. Recently, there have been a few state cases that have “prohibited” the ban, but they are difficult to implement have have not had a significant impact on the actual application of the policy. It was not until 2008 that the surge of public outcry against the policy, headed by President Obama, reached a level that the movement began to gain momentum.
Fast forward to today and we can see the results of this swell of support. Several court cases are being argued regarding the policy and a congressional repeal is being debated as we speak. There have been cries of support from both enlisted men and those in high command positions, not to mention a full survey performed by the Department of Defense that shows 70% of troops support a repeal. The issue, of course, is that there are those that oppose the policy and are willing to do next to anything to prevent it from getting though. Yes, six paragraphs in and I am just now getting to my point!
The bill that is stagnating in congress right now has copious amounts of support, but no momentum. The momentum it should have has been all but eliminated by conservatives claiming that repealing DADT would destroy unit cohesion. Worst among these is Senator John McCain (R-AZ) who has repeatedly moved the bar for his support of repeal from command support to troop support to whatever he happens to think of at the moment. Currently the bill has passed committee but is being held up in debates, the needed 60 votes to end discussion and start voting being unobtainable.
So there we go, a little history and an explanation of the problem at hand. By no means comprehensive but it should give everyone a good idea of what we are up against and fighting for. The real goal now is making sure that those congressional representatives that would block the repeal know that the public is not on their side and they are slowing down progress in the US.
As, of all people, former conservative senator Barry Goldwater once said, “It’s time America realized that there is no gay exemption in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence.”