LISA KEEN | Keen News Service
Repealing “don’t ask don’t tell” poses only minimal risk to current war efforts, according to results from a 370-page Pentagon study that were leaked to the Washington Post.
According to an article published on the Post’s website late Wednesday, sources said the study results indicate more than 70 percent of 400,000 servicemembers and 150,000 military spouses surveyed said the effect of DADT repeal would be positive, mixed or nonexistent. The survey found that a majority had no strong objections, though a significant minority is opposed. But the study’s authors reportedly concluded that objections to serving alongside openly gay colleagues would drop over time. And it says that servicemembers who object to sharing a room or shower with openly gay troops should be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Openly gay Air Force veteran David Guy-Gainer of Forest Hill called the report “a Veterans Day gift” for LGBT current and former servicemembers.
Guy-Gainer is a retired Air Force chief master sergeant and a board member for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. He had just returned from a Veterans Day breakfast in Tarrant County when he spoke to Dallas Voice on Thursday, Nov. 11.
“I am thrilled. It’s wonderful. I can’t think of a better gift for Veterans Day,” he said.
The story was published just hours after the Obama administration filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that the military be allowed to continue enforcing DADT while a lower court ruling declaring the policy unconstitutional makes its way through the appeals process.
Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Kumar Katyal argued that the stay is necessary because the injunction would cause “the government the kind of irreparable injury that routinely forms the basis for a stay pending appeal.”
U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips issued an injunction against enforcement of DADT last month in the wake of her earlier ruling, in a case brought by Log Cabin Republicans, that DADT is unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of Phillips’ injunction, and Log Cabin Republicans appealed that stay to the Supreme Court.
The Post article is based on information provided to the newspaper from two people “familiar with a draft of the report,” according to reporters Ed O’Keefe and Greg Jaffe. The sources are not identified in the article. Asked if the reporters could convey a request from Keen News for follow-up, O’Keefe said Thursday morning that the sources “insisted we not contact them again.”
The report will almost certainly affect the momentum for repealing DADT during the lame-duck Congress, as the potential for breaking a Republican-led filibuster hinges largely on 10 senators who said in September that they did not want to vote on the issue until the Pentagon study was available. The study is due to President Barack Obama by Dec. 1.
“These results confirm what those of us who actually know the modern military, especially the rank and file troops, have said all along: The men and women of America’s armed forces are professionals who are capable of handling this policy change,” said Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence Collector who was discharged under the law in 2002. “In light of these findings, as well as the Secretary of Defense’s recent call for Senate action on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ during the lame duck session, there is no longer any excuse for failing to bring the defense authorization bill back up during the first week of the post-election legislative session.”
Aubrey Sarvis, exeutive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said servicemembers who were polled for the study reflect how most Americans feel about open service — “It’s no big deal, let’s move on and get the job done.”
“The military has a proud tradition of adjusting to change and becoming stronger for it. Ending ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ will be no different,” Sarvis said. “It’s clear a majority of Americans in both the military and civilian spheres agree that ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is outdated and should go. Congress needs to catch up and the Senate should immediately act on repeal when it returns to Washington next week. No one should be surprised if a vocal minority, for a short window, might object, as a minority did when segregation in the ranks ended and women were admitted to the service academies. In the military you get over your objections or you get out.”
The Post said its sources provided details about “a draft” of the study that was distributed late last week to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, and leaders — both civilian and uniformed — of the four military branches.
The study reportedly does not recommend any significant changes to military housing or benefits, saying that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits recognition of same-sex spouses.
Although many political observers have suggested there is little to no chance that the lame-duck Congress will pass a defense authorization bill this year with the DADT repeal language intact, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told the Washington Blade this week that “Democrats are going to try very hard” to do so.
And in a telephone conference call with reporters Wednesday, Winnie Stachelberg, a key participant in meetings with the White House on the issue, said she thinks the strong statements from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in recent days have help put the repeal effort “in a solid position” during the lame-duck session of Congress.
Stachelberg, who is a vice president at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said pro-repeal activists need to focus on 10 senators who indicated during debate in September that they wanted to hear from the Pentagon study before taking a position on repeal. Those 10 include Republicans Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, John McCain of Arizona, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Olympia Snowe of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio. They also include Democrat Jim Webb of Virginia, as well as two senators who will not take their seats until the new Congress convenes in January — Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois, whose election is still pending, and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The Human Rights Campaign also launched a grassroots campaign Monday to put pressure on senators from eight key states to support breaking the filibuster on DADT. Those states are Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
The House passed DADT repeal language in its version of the FY 2011 defense authorization bill last May, but the Senate was unable to take up a similar version of the bill in September when Republicans led a filibuster aimed primarily at DADT repeal.
Some unsourced reports suggested last week that Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a supporter of repeal, was discussing with Sen. McCain the possibility of stripping DADT repeal from the bill. But neither senator confirmed that report and, with unsourced reports, it’s hard to know what is really being discussed and what is simply a rumor being spread by one side or the other to create an appearance of inevitability to advance their own interests.
Stachelberg said Wednesday she believes the only real objections surrounding DADT repeal now are ones over procedure — how and when to repeal it, not substance. But she acknowledged that Congress must vote repeal this year because “next year would be very grim.”
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