Blog of Rights

Pentagon DADT Report Underscores Need for Congressional Action

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 5:45pm

Earlier today, the Pentagon released a much-anticipated report on the discriminatory and unconstitutional policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) and the findings in it provide a critical boost to ongoing efforts to pass repeal through Congress before the end of the year. Most notably, the report found that a large majority of respondents to a survey of active-duty and reserve service members and their families say that ending the DADT policy barring lesbian and gay service members from serving openly would not have an adverse effect on military operations.

In comments to reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday afternoon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated:

The findings of their report reflect nearly ten months of research and analysis along several lines of study, and represent the most thorough and objective review ever of this difficult policy issue and its impact on the American military.

Secretary Gates’ comments are important because opponents of repeal, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have tried in recent days to downplay the findings of the report and to request further study of the policy before any legislative action is taken. Sen. McCain and others have specifically called on the Pentagon to survey service members about whether the policy should even be repealed. Secretary Gates rightly rejected such an exercise in his remarks today, stating:

The very idea of asking the force to, in effect, vote on such a matter is antithetical to our system of government and would have been without precedent in the long history of our civilian-led military. The President of the United States, the commander in chief of the Armed Forces, made his position on this matter clear — a position I support. Our job, as the civilian and military leadership of the Department of Defense, was to determine how best to prepare for such a change should the Congress change the law.

Key findings from the report, and particularly the survey of active-duty and reserve service members, include:

  • 70 percent of service members said they would be able to “work together to get the job done” with a gay service member in their immediate unit;
  • 69 percent said they worked in a unit with a coworker that they believed to be lesbian, gay or bisexual; and
  • 92 percent stated that their unit’s “ability to work together,” with a gay person was “very good, good or neither good nor poor.”

All of this further underscores the pressing need for Congress, particularly the Senate, to act in the coming days and weeks to pass a repeal of DADT this year. There is simply no excuse to further delay eliminating this discriminatory, unconstitutional policy. Please join with the ACLU in urging your senators to vote to repeal DADT this year. DADT turned 17 years old on Tuesday. Let’s celebrate by making sure it isn’t around for its 18th.

Next up, the Senate Armed Services Committee will be holding two hearings this week on the Pentagon’s DADT report, which will include testimony from the top uniformed and civilian leadership at the Department of Defense. Be sure to check back to our website for all the latest information and post-hearing blog updates.

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