Blog of Rights

Another Week Brings More DADT Action in Washington

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 6:29pm

Another week brings more activity both on and off Capitol Hill related to the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). The Senate Armed Services Committee will be holding a hearing on Thursday morning at 9:45 a.m., which will feature a prominent proponent of the discriminatory policy, as well as two victims of it. The contrast should be fairly striking.

Speaking in support of DADT will be retired U.S. Marine Corps General John J. Sheehan. Those speaking in support of repealing DADT will be former Air Force Major Mike Almy and former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Jenny Kopfstein. Both are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and had distinguished military careers, which were prematurely terminated as a result of DADT. This will be the first congressional hearing to feature those whose military careers were ended as a result of the policy since President Obama’s call for repeal of DADT in his January State of the Union address. Be sure to check back after the hearing for highlights and our take.

This week will also see the conclusion of the Pentagon’s review of interim steps that can be taken short of repeal (which only Congress can approve) that would lessen some of the most egregious aspects of DADT, as well as make it more difficult to initiate discharge proceedings of a service member. Possibilities include eliminating anonymous tips as the basis for the start of an inquiry, and requiring that alleged homosexual conduct on which any discharge is based occurs after a service member joined the armed forces. It, of course, remains to be seen just what steps the Pentagon will be willing to take while Congress hashes out the details of a full repeal.

While no substitute for an actual repeal of DADT, the Pentagon can and should take steps to mitigate the ugliest aspects of the policy. Robert Doody, Executive Director of the ACLU of South Dakota, described just such an instance in a blog post earlier this week — “Who You Love Shouldn’t Matter When You Serve” — that discussed the case of a woman who was discharged after being outed by South Dakota’s Rapid City Police Department.

It is certainly encouraging to see all of these positive developments regarding repeal DADT. However, they must not be an end in and of themselves. Nothing short of fully repealing this policy, which states that openly gay and lesbian individuals pose "an unacceptable threat to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability,” is needed.

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