Reax to Pentagon report on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

Here are some reactions to the Pentagon study on “don’t ask don’t tell” released this afternoon. We’ve posted the full text of the study below.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese:

“This issue has been studied for fifty years, including by the military itself, and the results from over twenty-two studies are uniform: open service does not harm effectiveness. The small handful of Senators blocking repeal no longer have any fig leaves behind which to hide. The time for repeal is now. …

“America’s men and women in uniform are professionals who already serve with gays and lesbians and repeal will do nothing to change their dedication to protecting our nation,” said Solmonese. “Senators who said they want to hear from military leaders and troops now have their answers.  Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will allow every qualified man and woman to serve without sacrificing the high standards that have made our military great.”

Servicemembers United Executive Director Alex Nicholson:

“This thorough and comprehensive report makes clear to lawmakers and the American people once and for all that the U.S. military is capable of handling the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The questions are now answered and the debate is now settled. It’s now up to the Senate to bring the defense authorization bill back to the floor, allow 10 to 20 amendments to be debated on each side, and get this bill passed. We have the votes now if the process is fair.”

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis:

“This exhaustive report is overwhelmingly positive and constructive. The Pentagon validated what repeal advocates and social scientists have been saying about open service for over a decade. Still, some initial resistance may come from one or more of the service chiefs — the very leaders who will be charged with  implementing this change. Those chiefs will need to salute and lead in bringing about this needed change. Fortunately, the chiefs have already made it clear they will do precisely that if Congress acts. Now, it’s up to the Senate to make repeal happen this year.”

—  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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—  John Wright

Pentagon study on repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ to be released at 1 p.m. Dallas time

Sen. John Cornyn

A Pentagon study on the impacts of repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” will be released at 1 p.m. today Dallas time, according to a press advisory from the Department of Defense:

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen will conduct a press briefing at 2 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973) to discuss the public release of the Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) report.

They will be followed by Gen. Carter F. Ham and Jeh Johnson, co-chairs of the CRWG.

The Associated Press has a story up about the findings of the study and what they mean for the repeal effort:

The Pentagon study that argues that gay troops could serve openly without hurting the military’s ability to fight is expected to re-ignite debate this month on Capitol Hill over repealing the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Officials familiar with the 10-month study’s results have said a clear majority of respondents don’t care if gays serve openly, with 70 percent predicting that lifting the ban would have positive, mixed or no results. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings hadn’t been released.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who have both said they support repealing the law, were scheduled to discuss the findings with Congress Tuesday morning and with reporters Tuesday afternoon.

Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have mostly opposed repealing the law because they say efforts to do so are politically driven and dangerous at a time of two wars.

Needless to say, neither of Texas two Republican senators are on the list of “key Senators that need to hear from repeal supporters” put out by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. We’ve made inquiries to both Texas senators’ offices about whether the Pentagon study results affect their position on DADT. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who likes to accept awards from LGBT groups in his spare time, is among many GOP senators who’ve said they didn’t want to act on DADT repeal until the study is released:

“Sen. Cornyn believes that readiness must remain the highest priority of our military,” Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said in June. “Right now, the Pentagon is studying how repealing DADT would affect military readiness, and this careful review is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Sen. Cornyn believes Congress should not to act on a possible repeal until that review has been completed.”

—  John Wright

Reid pledges lame duck vote on DADT repeal

President urges Levin to bring DADT repeal back, but Levin wants to see results of Pentagon study first

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will return to the Senate floor following the Thanksgiving recess, but whether repeal advocates can muster the 60 votes needed to overcome an expected Republican-led filibuster of the measure is another question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, confirmed Wednesday, Nov. 17, that he will bring DADT repeal back to the floor as part of the National Defense Authorization Act during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“During the work period following the Thanksgiving holidays, I will bring the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, including a repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell,’” Reid said in a statement. “Our Defense Department supports repealing ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ as a way to build our all-volunteer armed forces. We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so.”

Reid’s announcement came on the heels of a meeting about DADT repeal involving representatives from national LGBT groups, along with top officials from the White House and the majority leader’s office.

“The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill to which ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ repeal is attached — to the floor in the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess,” read a joint statement from the Human Rights Campaign, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Center For American Progress. “Further the majority leader and the president made clear their opposition to removing the DADT provision from the NDAA. Information on the exact timing and procedural conditions will be announced by the Majority Leader’s office.”

Those who met with representatives from the three groups were Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff; Phil Schiliro, White House director of legislative affairs; Chris Kang, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs; Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; David Krone, chief of staff to Reid; and Serena Hoy, senior counsel to Reid.

Reid also said Wednesday that he plans to introduce the Dream Act, a controversial immigration reform measure, as a separate bill this time. Some Senators who voted to block debate on the NDAA in September cited their opposition to the Dream Act, which had been attached to the bill along with DADT repeal.

Also Wednesday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had contacted Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to urge him to move forward with DADT repeal.

“Today, President Obama called Chairman Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in a statement. “The president’s call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue.”

Levin said in a statement that he wants to await the results of a Pentagon study on DADT repeal, which are due Dec. 1, before moving forward. Some Senators have said they will not vote to repeal the 17-year-old ban on open service until they can review the study results.

“I will work hard to overcome the filibuster so that ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is repealed and the NDAA  — which is critical to our national security and the well-being of our troops — is adopted,” Levin said. “I have asked Senator Reid to make his motion to bring up the matter after my committee and the public have received the defense department’s report and following the hearings that I plan to hold on the matter, which should take place during the first few days of December.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Senate to take up DADT repeal in December

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will return to the Senate floor following the Thanksgiving recess, but whether repeal advocates can muster the 60 votes needed to overcome an expected Republican-led filibuster of the measure is another question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, confirmed Wednesday, Nov. 17, that he will bring DADT repeal back to the floor as part of the National Defense Authorization Act during the lame-duck session of Congress.

“During the work period following the Thanksgiving holidays, I will bring the Defense Authorization bill to the floor, including a repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell,’” Reid said in a statement. “Our Defense Department supports repealing ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ as a way to build our all-volunteer armed forces. We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so.”

Reid’s announcement came on the heels of a meeting about DADT repeal involving representatives from national LGBT groups, along with top officials from the White House and the majority leader’s office.

“The officials told the groups that Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama are committed to moving forward on repeal by bringing the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill to which ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ repeal is attached — to the floor in the lame duck session after the Thanksgiving recess,” read a joint statement from the Human Rights Campaign, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Center For American Progress. “Further the majority leader and the president made clear their opposition to removing the DADT provision from the NDAA. Information on the exact timing and procedural conditions will be announced by the Majority Leader’s office.”

Those who met with representatives from the three groups were Jim Messina, deputy White House chief of staff; Phil Schiliro, White House director of legislative affairs; Chris Kang, special assistant to the president for legislative affairs; Brian Bond, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; David Krone, chief of staff to Reid; and Serena Hoy, senior counsel to Reid.

Reid also said Wednesday that he plans to introduce the Dream Act, a controversial immigration reform measure, as a separate bill this time. Some Senators who voted to block debate on the NDAA in September cited their opposition to the Dream Act, which had been attached to the bill along with DADT repeal.

Also Wednesday, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had contacted Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to urge him to move forward with DADT repeal.

“Today, President Obama called Chairman Levin to reiterate his commitment on keeping the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in the National Defense Authorization Act, and the need for the Senate to pass this legislation during the lame duck,” White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in a statement. “The president’s call follows the outreach over the past week by the White House to dozens of senators from both sides of the aisle on this issue.”

Levin said in a statement that he wants to await the results of a Pentagon study on DADT repeal, which are due Dec. 1, before moving forward. Some Senators have said they will not vote to repeal the 17-year-old ban on open service until they can review the study results.

“I will work hard to overcome the filibuster so that ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is repealed and the NDAA  — which is critical to our national security and the well-being of our troops — is adopted,” Levin said. “I have asked Senator Reid to make his motion to bring up the matter after my committee and the public have received the defense department’s report and following the hearings that I plan to hold on the matter, which should take place during the first few days of December.”

—  John Wright

SLDN board member Dave Guy-Gainer makes sense of all the latest developments on DADT

Dave Guy-Gainer

The Raw Story has posted a nice recap of the many developments of the last few days concerning the possible repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” during the lame-duck session of Congress – otherwise known as the possible repeal of DADT anytime before 2013.

In a nutshell, there are reports that Senate leaders plan to remove the amendment that would repeal DADT from a Defense spending bill, to facilitate the spending bill’s passage. And those reports from The Advocate and The Wall Street Journal have prompted some to conclude that DADT repeal is dead as a hammer. Meanwhile, on the same day that the new commandant of the Marine Corps spoke out against DADT repeal (Saturday), Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated his desire to see the ban lifted. So what gives?

To make sense of it all, we turned to Dave Guy-Gainer, aka “Chief,” a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Here’s what Gainer said:

“It seems like in this week between the elections and the reconvening of the lame duck Senate, pundits and talking heads are coming out of the woodwork. Let me stick to the facts of today and avoid speculation. The bill to repeal DADT is still attached to the National Defense Authorization Act. The president has said that he wants the legislative branch to act. Secretary Gates has repeated that he would like to see the ban lifted. Well over 70 percent of the nation says that repeal is needed. The DOD report is due Dec. 1.  The newly elected members of the House and Senate won’t be seated in this session. Those who will be leaving are still there. None  of the advocacy groups who have fought for repeal have folded up tent and left the battlefield. For repeal to happen, we still need existing Republican Senators to do the right thing and vote for passage. We especially need our Log Cabin Republican allies, of whom I am most proud in the courts, to bring the Republican vote to the table. Surely, there are Republicans who would do the right thing and vote for repeal. DADT has been declared unconstitutional in lower federal courts and is winding its way through appeal. Congress could end it all in the next six weeks. The question is — will it?”

UPDATE: We asked Guy-Gainer whether there’s any hope that Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would break ranks and provide one of the needed Republican votes in favor of repeal. Guy-Gainer’s response, and this is a direct quote, was, “<expletive deleted>.” Gainer went on to note that Texas isn’t on the list of states where SLDN is targeting key senators. Below is the list, and SLDN is again urging people to contact these folks by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

–Harry Reid (D-NV);
–Carl Levin (D-MI);
–Susan Collins (R-ME);
–Olympia Snowe (R-ME);
–Mark Pryor (D-Ark.);
–Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark)
–Richard Lugar (R-IN);
–Judd Gregg (R-NH);
–Scott Brown (R-MA)
–George Voinovich (R-OH);
–Kit Bond (R-MO);
–Joe Manchin (D-WV)
–Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
–Mark Kirk (R-IL)


—  John Wright

Court allows military to continue enforcing DADT pending appeal

LISA LEFF  |  Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court on Monday, Nov. 1 indefinitely extended its freeze on a judge’s order halting enforcement of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, heightening pressure on the Obama administration to persuade the U.S. Senate to repeal the law before a new Congress is sworn in.

A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the U.S. government’s request for a stay while it challenges the trial court’s ruling that the ban on openly gay service members is unconstitutional.

The same panel, composed of two judges appointed by President Ronald Reagan and one appointed by President Bill Clinton, on Oct. 20 imposed a temporary hold keeping “don’t ask, don’t tell” in place.

Monday’s decision means gay Americans who disclose their sexual orientations still can’t enlist in the armed forces and can be investigated and ultimately discharged if they already are serving.

“We continue to warn service members that it is unsafe to come out as long as this law remains on the books,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

In an eight-page order, two judges said they were persuaded by the Department of Justice’s argument that U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips’ worldwide injunction against the policy “will seriously disrupt ongoing and determined efforts by the Administration to devise an orderly change.”

“The public interest in enduring orderly change of this magnitude in the military — if that is what is to happen — strongly militates in favor of a stay,” Judges Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain and Stephen S. Trott wrote in their majority order. “Furthermore, if the administration is successful in persuading Congress to eliminate (the policy), this case and controversy will become moot.”

Another reason they gave for imposing the freeze was decisions by four other federal appeals courts that cast doubt on whether Phillips exceeded her authority and ignored existing legal precedents when she concluded gays could not serve in the military without having their First Amendment rights breached.

Judge William Fletcher entered a partial dissent, saying he would have preferred the panel had heard oral arguments before granting the stay. Fletcher said he thinks “don’t tell, don’t tell” should not be used to discharge any existing service members while the case was on appeal.

“Defendants would not be required during the pendency of the appeal to change their recruiting practices, to change their personnel manuals, or, subject only to the requirement that they not actually discharge anyone, otherwise to change their practices,” Fletcher said.

President Barack Obama repeatedly has said he opposes “don’t ask, don’t tell” but favors ending it legislatively instead of through the courts. Over the summer, he worked with Democrats to write a bill that would have lifted the ban, pending completion of a Defense Department review due Dec. 1. The legislation passed the House but was blocked in the Senate.

The president has pledged to push for another vote during Congress’ lame duck session after Tuesday’s elections.

“The president claims to want to see ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ ended. It is time that he stop talking and start working to make a real difference for gay and lesbian Americans by pushing for repeal when Congress returns,” said R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that sued to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell” in Phillips’ court,

The court ordered the government to submit its brief in its broader appeal by Jan. 24 and gave Log Cabin Republicans until Feb. 22 to reply. It did not schedule oral arguments in the case.

“For the reasons stated in the government’s submission to the appellate court, we believe the stay is appropriate,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Judge denies government’s request to resume enforcement of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

As expected, a federal district judge in California on Tuesday denied the government’s request to delay her injunction from last week halting the military’s enforcement of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

The Associated Press reports:

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued her ruling Tuesday after saying the government had not proven that her order would harm troops or impede efforts to implement new military regulations to deal with openly gay troops.

Justice Department officials say the Obama administration will appeal to the appellate court in San Francisco.

The military has promised to abide by her order as long as it remains in place.

Phillips declared the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unconstitutional Sept. 9. Under the 1993 law, the military cannot inquire into service members’ sexual orientation and punish them for it as long as they keep it to themselves.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, issued the following statement in response to Phillips decision Tuesday to deny the government’s request:

“By the judge keeping the injunction in place, lesbian and gay service members are protected another day, but the uncertainty has not gone away. The Department of Justice will immediately ask the 9th Circuit to stay the injunction. We’re talking about the careers of patriots, people who are on the frontlines serving our country – some of whom are highly decorated – and the court needs to keep the injunction in place. As the DOJ fights to keep this unconstitutional and oppressive law, we are monitoring active-duty clients’ cases and fielding calls every day to our hotline. During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out. Our service members need finality. Given the uncertainty in the courts, we urge the Senate to act swiftly next month on repeal when they return to Washington.”

Below is the full text of Phillips’ ruling:

LCR v USA – ORDER Emergency Stay Denied

—  John Wright

SLDN advises caution despite Pentagon announcement; Dan Choi attempts to re-enlist

Despite the Pentagon’s announcement Tuesday that military recruiters have been told they must accept gay applicants, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network continues to advise caution.

“During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out and recruits should use caution if choosing to sign up,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law is rooted in any statement of homosexuality made at anytime and to anyone. A higher court is likely to issue a hold on the injunction by Judge Phillips very soon. The bottom line: if you come out now, it can be used against you in the future by the Pentagon. As the DOJ fights to keep this unconstitutional and oppressive law, we are monitoring active-duty clients’ cases and fielding calls every day to our hotline. Given the uncertainty in the courts, we urge the Senate to act swiftly next month on repeal when they return to Washington.”

Of course, if you’ve already been discharged for being gay, you don’t have much to lose. Among those who plan to try to re-enlist in the wake of the Pentagon announcement is Lt. Dan Choi, according to his Twitter feed:

—  John Wright

Local gay vet: Time to regroup, refuel, attack again on DADT

Veterans and active servicemembers express outrage and frustration but will use this time to regroup

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Dave Guy-Gainer
Dave Guy-Gainer

Gay current and former servicemembers from North Texas expressed frustration and outrage over this week’s vote in the U.S. Senate that halted progress on a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

But they vowed to continue fighting the military’s 17-year-old ban on open service, in hopes the Senate will take up the measure again during the lame duck session that follows November elections.

The Senate voted 56-43 on Tuesday, Sept. 21 to move forward with debate on the 2011 Defense spending bill that includes a provision to repeal DADT, but the margin fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

Dave Guy-Gainer, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant from Tarrant County and a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, chalked up Tuesday’s vote as a lost battle, but said the war won’t end until the policy is history.

“Now is the time to regroup, refuel and attack again,” Gainer said. “We’ll see this scenario again in December and again and again until repeal happens. It will happen. Between now and then, the voices of our community and our allies must become louder and more incessant than ever before. This is not a political issue — this is a discrimination issue. After 17 years we cannot give up now. We are still alive in the Senate and in the courts.”

Two weeks before the Senate vote, a federal district judge in California declared DADT unconstitutional, but the U.S.

Justice Department, which is defending the policy, hasn’t said whether it will appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon review of the impact of DADT repeal is due Dec. 1.

Kevin, an active-duty gay Marine from North Texas whose name is being withheld to protect him from being outed under DADT, called on  President Barack Obama to issue an executive order ending discharges under DADT until the policy can be repealed — either legislatively or judicially.

Currently stationed overseas, Kevin is a member of OutServe, an underground network of actively serving LGBT troops. Kevin’s partner is also on active duty.

“This was a huge letdown, and has made me just about completely lose faith in our government,” Kevin said of Tuesday’s vote. “But we at OutServe are standing by our word, we are not going to give up the fight.

“I would also encourage the American public to still stay on their congressmen and senators, call them and tell them to repeal this unjust policy,” Kevin said. “This is human lives that this policy is affecting.”

Danny Hernandez, a former Marine from Tarrant County who was discharged under DADT and now works with SLDN, said he was in the Senate gallery when Tuesday’s vote took place.

“The Senate continues to play games with the lives of thousands of servicemembers,” said Hernandez, a graduate of Texas A&M University who hopes to one day return to the Marines. “There were GOP senators who voted not to represent their constituents, but to follow party lines even though they support the repeal of DADT. A vote against the bill is one thing, but a vote against the opportunity to bring it up for debate is shameful.

“I am remaining optimistic and hoping that this will pass during the lame duck session at the end of the year,” Hernandez added. “It would be nice to see politics placed aside as well as for the support of all our men and women in uniform.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas