New York Times: Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy Filed in Senate

Mar 4, 2010

Repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Policy Filed in Senate


Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, introduced a bill on Wednesday to repeal the ban on openly gay service members in the military, but at a hearing later in the day Republican lawmakers questioned why lifting the ban was necessary.

Mr. Lieberman was acting in response to President Obama's pledge to end the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" law that allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the armed services only if they keep their sexual orientation secret. It is unclear if his bill will get the 60 votes needed for repeal, so Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who heads the Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that a more politically palatable alternative might be a moratorium on discharges under the existing law.

More than 13,000 members of the military have been discharged since the law was enacted in 1993, including much-needed Arabic translators. Many were forced out because third parties had made their sexual orientation public.

Later on Wednesday, the chairmen of a Pentagon committee to assess the impact of repealing the law got objections from Republicans, among them Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

At a hearing of the panel, Mr. Wilson cited Pentagon data showing that from 1999 to 2008, 1.9 million people were discharged by the Department of Defense, including 8,300 because of "don't ask, don't tell." Mr. Wilson concluded that some 800 people were discharged under the law per year, which he termed "not a significant loss from an overall" Defense Department "manpower perspective."

Both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have called for repeal of the law, but like the chiefs of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, they have advocated starting with a slow, careful Pentagon review of the issue.

The chairmen of that review - Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department's top legal counsel, and Gen. Carter F. Ham, the commander of the United States Army in Europe - told the House panel that they would complete their study by Dec. 1.

They also said they would talk to active-duty gay men and lesbians as part of that review, although under the current policy such conversations are supposed to lead to discharges. Mr. Johnson told the panel that he and General Ham were looking for "mechanisms for how to do that within the confines of the law."