The second day of landmark hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Pentagon’s just-released report on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) saw testimony from much of the uniformed leadership of the armed forces, including the chiefs of all four service branches – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
The important take away from the hearing was that all of the military leadership present testified that, if Congress passes a repeal of DADT this year, they could successfully move forward with an implementation of open service for those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual.
In response to a question from Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) about the experiences of our allies who allow open service, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead stated that most of his foreign counterparts reported that it was a “nonevent.” Adm. Roughead went on:
I think it's also interesting to note that most of those changes have occurred well over 10 years ago, and in that time, with most of these navies, we continue to have exchange programs where our sailors and officers serve on their ships and vice versa, and so we are exposed in a routine way, if you will, to navies that — that have a different policy.
Also of note, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, incorrectly, for the second day in row, asserted that the ACLU had lost a case challenging DADT in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, and did not appeal the case further because of concerns about a bad Supreme Court decision. A position Sen. Sessions said he joins us in holding.
Unfortunately, the ACLU is unaware of exactly what Sen. Sessions is referring to. We did not have a case challenging DADT in the 1st Circuit.
We do, however, have an ongoing lawsuit challenging the DADT-related discharge of Air Force Maj. Margaret Witt. Maj. Witt recently succeeded in challenging her dismissal at the district court level and is set to rejoin the Air Force, even as her case works its way through the appeals process. Maj. Witt will become the first openly gay person to serve in the military due to a court order under DADT. The notion that the ACLU is afraid to bring cases challenging DADT is simply not supported by the facts. Sorry Sen. Sessions.
Following two days of testimony in the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) announced that he now favors repeal of DADT. Sen. Brown stated:
I pledged to keep an open mind about the present policy on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the Secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed.
The ACLU is happy to join with Sen. Brown and many other members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, in supporting 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.