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If They Could Turn Back Time – on DADT Repeal

Ian S. Thompson,
Senior Legislative Advocate,
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May 13, 2011

Late on Wednesday evening, the House Armed Services Committee adopted a series of harmful amendments designed to delay, derail and turn back the clock on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) repeal implementation. The amendments were added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012.

One amendment would delay repeal implementation by expanding the repeal law’s certification requirements to include each service chief for each branch of the armed forces. The law currently stipulates that the repeal will not take effect until President Obama, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the new law will not have a negative impact on readiness, recruitment, retention, and other key factors affecting the military. Expanding the number of officials required for certification is simply an effort to slow the process down, and something that has been strongly opposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Another amendment adopted by the House Armed Services Committee would prohibit the use of Department of Defense facilities, including military bases, for marriages between same-sex couples, even where state law permits such marriages. These facilities are already available for use by service members for a range of religious functions and ceremonies, including weddings, funerals, baptisms, confirmations, and other events. To deny them to gay and lesbian service members based on nothing more than their sexual orientation is discriminatory and runs counter to the repeal of DADT.

Late last year, the House and Senate, with wide and bipartisan majorities in each chamber, passed legislation providing for the orderly repeal of the discriminatory and unconstitutional DADT policy, which for over 17 years barred lesbian, gay and bisexual service members from serving openly. All indications point to a smooth and orderly transition currently underway to open service for lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on April 7, the service chiefs testified to that effect, including those who had been most skeptical about repeal. For example, Marine Corps Commandant, General James F. Amos, stated:

And I’m looking specifically for issues that might arise coming out of the…training. And to be honest with you, Chairman, we have not seen it.

…there hasn’t been the recalcitrant push-back. There’s not been the anxiety over it from the forces in the field. I will tell you that I asked specifically this morning from Major General [John A.] Toolan. I said, John, what are you seeing in the young Marines that are out there? He said, sir, quite honestly, they’re focused on the enemy.

It’s very unfortunate that certain members of the House Armed Services Committee are attempting to roll back and otherwise derail the ongoing, successful implementation of DADT repeal. Rather than attempting to erect discriminatory roadblocks for a non-existent “problem,” all members of Congress should support the civilian and uniformed leadership of our military in the transition to open service for all who are willing to risk their lives in our nation’s defense.

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