‘Mission Incomplete’ rally will call on Senate to remain in session until DADT is repealed

A bevvy of pro-repeal groups are teaming up for “Mission Incomplete,” a rally on Capitol Hill on Friday to call on the Senate to remain in session until it can consider the Defense Authorization bill, which includes an amendment that would end “don’t ask don’t tell.” According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is putting together the rally, other organizations who’ve signed on thus far are American Veterans for Equal Rights, the Equality Federation, Get Equal, the Human Rights Campaign, the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, Knights Out, MoveOn PAC, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, OutServe, PFLAG National, People For The America Way, PROMO Missouri, National Stonewall Democrats, Swish, VoteVets and Young Democrats of America.

Here’s a statement from SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“We call upon the Senate and the President to remain in session and in Washington until the National Defense Authorization Act is passed — which includes the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask.’ The Senate is scheduled to break for holiday vacation; we can’t let them leave. We must show our rage for repeal and insist the Senate stay in Washington until they have finished the job. We implore all who support repeal to join us outside the Senate this Friday. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, ‘If not now, when?’

“The lame-duck vote on repeal was set up and dictated by some of the same Senators — like John McCain and Mitch McConnell — who are now delaying to kill the bill. They wanted the Pentagon report — now they have it. They wanted hearings — now they’re done. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he is determined to pass the defense bill with repeal. Senators must not be allowed to hide any longer behind process, procedure, and tax cuts for the wealthy, while the discrimination continues. We’ve lost 14,000 troops to this antiquated law, and by God, we must not lose another on our watch.

“More Americans than ever are with us in this moment. We have the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a majority of the service chiefs who support repeal. We know that 92 percent of service members are just fine working with their gay, lesbian and bisexual colleagues, according to the Pentagon report. Their attitudes mirror those of nearly 80 percent of Americans.

“With increased pressure — a raised voice — and help from our allies at this key moment, I believe the Senate will stay in session. We will hit 60 votes. We will fight back on attempts to kill repeal. We will send the bill to the President’s desk. The discharges will end. And gays and lesbians will keep serving this nation — but this time with the integrity they so deserve.”

For more info on the rally, go here. If you can’t make the rally but want to take action, go here. And to add your organization to the list of those supporting the rally, e-mail eas@sldn.org.

—  John Wright

After Senate hearing, DADT repeal still up in air

Service chiefs all say they can implement end to ban on gays

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service

The second and final day of the Senate hearing on repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” has adjourned, and the battle lines are still very much where they were at the beginning, with one exception.

Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown said he’ll vote for repeal, once it reaches the floor. But Brown didn’t say whether he’d be willing to rebuff Republican Party leaders to help bring the measure to the floor.

And there’s the rub. Unless 60 votes can be mustered to call the Defense Authorization bill to the Senate floor, Brown’s statement of support for repeal is of minimal consequence.

Thursday and Friday’s hearing made clear that the military leadership concedes — if not agrees — that the current ban on gays in the military should be repealed. The service chiefs of all four branches of the armed forces, plus the Coast Guard, believe repeal can be implemented without sacrificing readiness and unit cohesion. They believe the Pentagon report released Nov. 30 provides a solid plan for implementation.

But not everyone agrees on timing, and discussion during the hearings went a long way to muddle exactly which timing everyone doesn’t agree on: Timing for implementation, timing for full implementation, and timing for a Congressional vote on repeal.

This much is clear concerning implementation: Army General George Casey said “not now,” Air Force General Norton Schwartz said “not until 2012,” and Marine General James Amos said it should begin “when our singular focus is no longer on combat operations or preparing units for combat.”

“At that point,” said Amos, “then I’d be comfortable with implementing repeal.”

Other military leaders are comfortable beginning the process now. That includes Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, Joint Chief Vice Chairman General James Cartwright, Navy Admiral Gary Roughead, and Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp. It includes at least 56 senators, 234 members of the House, and 50 to 70 percent of Americans (depending on which recent poll you look at). And, according to the Pentagon study, at least 70 percent of servicemembers say repeal would have a “positive, mixed, or no effect” on task cohesion.

The sticking point for senators is the timing of the Senate’s vote on whether to repeal. Republicans, led by Arizona Sen. John McCain, are steadfastly against allowing a vote and have vowed to prevent the underlying Defense Authorization bill to the floor. They say it’s because the nation has more urgent matters — taxes, job creation — with which the Senae should concern itself with in the waning days of the 111th Congress. Others say it’s because they want to stall issues they oppose – such as DADT repeal — from reaching the floor until next year, when they take control of the House and have a stronger posture in the Senate.

Most military leaders expressed concern during the hearings that Congress should take a vote now and they expressed enormous and unanimous confidence that Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen would not sign the necessary papers for repeal implementation to begin until they were certain the service chiefs agreed the military’s readiness would not suffer. Their urgency was driven by concern that lawsuits are making their way through the federal court system now that have the potential to force the military to accept openly gay people immediately. Such a sudden demand, they said, would be seriously detrimental to military readiness.

The focus now shifts back to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and whether they will be able to come to an agreement that will allow the defense authorization bill to the floor. Prior to Dec. 1, such an agreement seemed to pivot on whether Reid would allow Republicans to proffer numerous amendments to the bill, including one to strip DADT repeal from the measure. But on Dec.. 1, McConnell and all 41 other Republicans in the Senate signed onto a letter to Reid, saying they would not vote to proceed on consideration of “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase. …”

Rep. Barney Frank says the annual defense authorization bill is not one of those bills that fund the government and that the letter is aimed at killing DADT repeal.

Other Democrats and the White House have tried to downplay the significance of the letter, saying it was nothing new and they weren’t going to get hung up on it.

But supporters of repeal have taken the letter seriously.

“If the 42 GOP senators — including several who support repeal of ‘don’t ask’ — stand with their party on process and procedure, their vote will be an endorsement of the discrimination that has cost 14,000 men and women their jobs and put our country’s national security at risk,” said Aubrey Sarvis, head of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

“A clear majority of the service chiefs support repeal this year,” said Sarvis. “Now, it’s up to the Senate. The National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the repeal provisions, must be called up in the Senate early next week under a reasonable approach that insures senators on both sides of the aisle a fair shot at amendments and debate. No debate on the merits of the bill will happen unless a handful of Republicans break off and support funding our troops.”

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright

As Senate begins DADT hearings, Guy-Gainer accuses Republicans of ‘juvenile mutiny’

Dave Guy-Gainer

Senate Republicans are committing “a form of juvenile mutiny” by indicating they’ll block consideration of “don’t ask don’t tell” during the lame duck session, according to a leading local advocate for repealing the policy.

All 42 Republican senators signed a letter delivered to Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday pledging to block any legislation that’s unrelated to government funding or taxes this month.

The Senate Armed Services Committee began hearings at 8 a.m. Dallas time today (you can watch live here) on the Pentagon’s report on DADT, which was released Tuesday and concluded that there’s “low risk” to ending the ban. But regardless of the Pentagon report and the committee hearings, some believe Wednesday’s letter to Reid  seriously threatens DADT repeal this year.

Dave Guy-Gainer, an openly gay retired Air Force chief master sergeant who lives in Tarrant County, said there were “no surprises” as he watched Tuesday’s press conference during which the Pentagon report was released.

“In fact, as I listened to each of the four speakers, I heard the same words and sentences that proponents of Repeal have said for many many years,” said Guy-Gainer, a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “The impact of repeal is minimal. And the concerns that some have can be overcome by education and leadership. It was refreshing to hear Secretary Gates call upon the Senate to enact repeal by the end of December. I understand that he has instructed the services to continue to draft the changes to their many regulations and policies and to draft the lesson plans that will be used to educate the force so that they will be ready when repeal happens. Or, they will be ready when the judiciary calls an end to DADT.”

Guy-Gainer added that he believes the findings of the report, along with polls showing a vast majority of Americans support DADT repeal, should serve as a mandate for the Senate to act.

“In military terms, I personally find their [the Senate Republcans'] letter to be a form of juvenile mutiny,” Gainer said.”These Senators were sent to Washington by people called constituents as a part of a whole. In law a constituent is one who appoints another to act on their behalf. About 80 percent of Americans support repeal and that 80 percent is certainly not made up solely of members of other parties. These Senators are there to vote the will of the people and not there to support the selfishness of partisan politics.

“If there is a threat to our national security, it is the withholding of the military funds that would be provided by the National Defense Authorization Act,” Gainer said, referring to the bill to which DADT repeal is attached. “By one measure, 92 percent of our military is fine working alongside gay and lesbian counterparts. But, none of them can function without biscuits, beans and bullets. After months of delay, it is time for a vote to be taken.

“Hopefully, those who read this article will find a way to inspire these 42 to use the power that was handed them at the ballot box to vote according to the wishes of the nation, the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the men and women of our nation’s military. Failing passage this month leaves the issue in the hands of the judiciary — and those cases will proceed.”

—  John Wright

Key findings and full text of Pentagon report on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

For your afternoon reading, below is a copy of the Pentagon report on “don’t ask don’t tell” that was released just moments ago, as well as a copy of the Support Plan for Implementation. And here’s a summary of the key findings from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (for another summary, go here):

When asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a co-worker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92% stated that the unit’s “ability to work together” was “very good,” “good,” or “neither good nor poor.”

• When asked about how having a service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to “work together to get the job done,” 70% of Service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.

When asked “in your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a co-worker that you believed to be homosexual,” 69% of Service members reported that they had.

• In communications with gay and lesbian current and former service members, the CRWG repeatedly heard a patriotic desire to serve and defend the Nation, subject to the same rules as everyone else.

The CRWG is convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war. They do not underestimate the challenges in implementing a change in the law, but neither should we underestimate the ability of our extraordinarily dedicated Service men and women to adapt to such change and continue to provide our Nation with the military capability to accomplish any mission.

The CRWG found “the risk of repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell to overall military effectiveness is low.”

The CRWG believes this to be the “largest, most Comprehensive review of a personnel policy matter which the department of defense has ever undertaken.”

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DADTReport SPI FINAL 20101130(Secure Hires)

—  John Wright