Late in the day on Friday, the AP reported on a leaked letter from Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen to House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) in which the two civilian and military leaders at the Pentagon urge Congress not to act on a repeal of the discriminatory and counterproductive Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy this year (at least not until the completion of the ongoing, year-long Pentagon review). Gates and Mullen write:
…I strongly oppose any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process.
This letter seeks to quash the ongoing progress being made in Congress by supporters of repealing DADT this year. One such leader in the House is Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress. In an interview with The Advocate, Rep. Murphy said he felt “blindsided” by the letter, but that his resolve in pressing forward with legislative repeal of DADT this year is unchanged.
The letter stands in sharp contrast both to President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he urged Congress to act this year to repeal DADT, as well as the repeated comments of Secretary Gates that the ongoing Pentagon study is exploring how best to implement repeal, not whether or not to repeal the policy.
There is simply no reason that Congress should not act this year to repeal DADT with the understanding that open service would not be implemented until the completion later this year of the Pentagon study on the best ways to do that. In the interim, there should be no discharges of gay and lesbian service members under the DADT policy.
Secretary Gates and Chairman Mullen are surely politically savvy enough to understand that the climate in Congress right now could not be much better for supporters of repealing DADT. Thanks to the leadership of those like Rep. Murphy and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Congress stands on the cusp of doing what would have implausible only a few years ago. There is no better opportunity than now to use this current legislative window to push forward with repeal of DADT.
Please join the ACLU in urging Congress to act this year to fully repeal DADT. Our gay and lesbian service members deserve nothing less.