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Historic Hearing Will Explore Repeal of DADT

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
ACLU
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February 1, 2010

Seventeen years and more than 13,000 dismissals later, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing, albeit for a mere one hour, Tuesday at noon on the discriminatory and counterproductive policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) which bars openly gay and lesbian individuals from serving in our nation’s armed forces. The hearing is particularly notable because of who will be testifying. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen will discuss the Pentagon’s proposed path forward on repealing a policy President Obama said “denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are” in his State of the Union address to Congress last week.

The fact that less than a week after the speech, the top civilian and military leadership at the Pentagon are appearing in front of Congress to address the issue is very encouraging, and shows that the administration and White House are serious about repealing the law this year. Today’s New York Times has an interesting article by Elisabeth Bumiller that details meetings over the previous year at the White House between senior administration officials and the Pentagon’s leadership. She reports that while the administration works with Congress on implementing a full repeal of DADT, the Pentagon will act in the interim to immediately end dismissals of service members whose sexual orientation is revealed by third parties or jilted partners. While such an action would certainly be a welcome step in the right direction over existing policy, it should by no means serve to slow down the process of implementing a full repeal of DADT this year. There is simply no rational basis to deny gay and lesbian Americans the opportunity to serve in their country’s armed forces.

Because of the historic nature of this hearing, many outlets are likely to carry the discussion of DADT repeal live, including C-SPAN and the committee’s own website. Be sure to check back here after the hearing for our take on what was said (or not said).

Until then, my thoughts can best be summed up as “It’s about damn time!”

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