Last week, during consideration of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act in the House of Representatives, congressional opponents of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) repeal succeeded in attaching two anti-gay, political, “red meat” amendments to the legislation. Despite all the political chatter in D.C. over the debt and deficits, what we often see on the floor of the House and Senate are ideological efforts by certain members of Congress to advance a narrow social agenda that is out of step with the American public while at the same time trying to convince that same public that they are focused like a laser on fiscal discipline and job creation. Guess again!
The first, offered by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), reaffirmed that the funds in the appropriations bill could not be used in violation of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). While there are multiple legal challenges against DOMA working their way through the federal courts (including one brought by the ACLU), it is still the law of the land, and the Department of Defense, like all federal agencies, is bound to uphold the law. It was, in short, a “no duh” vote. The amendment served absolutely no purpose other than to score political points at the expense of gay and lesbian couples. While the amendment passed the House, 175 bipartisan members did the right thing and voted no.
The second amendment, offered by Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), barred funds from being used to train military chaplains on DADT repeal. The amendment was a response to a Navy memo (which was subsequently suspended pending further legal and policy review) that would have permitted chaplains to perform marriage ceremonies, in accordance with their faith, for gay and lesbian couples in states that allow same-sex couples the freedom to marry. Yet, many, if not most, military chaplains have already completed training on DADT repeal. This misguided amendment, a solution in search of a problem, was adopted by a vote of 236-184. Once again, Democrats and Republicans were part of the solid block of 184 members voting no.
While some in Congress continued to play political games with DADT repeal implementation and the transition to open service for lesbian, gay and bisexual service members, DADT itself is hanging by a thread, and maybe even less than that. Last week, a federal appeals court ordered the Obama administration to immediately stop enforcing the discriminatory policy. In response to this court decision against DADT, a top Pentagon official on Friday issued a moratorium against any further DADT discharges and states, “the department will process applications for enlistment or appointment without regard to sexual orientation.” For the time being, DADT has been effectively ended.
All of this serves to underscore the importance of final DADT repeal certification from President Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Certification will finally bring this discriminatory law to an end, allowing all service members to serve openly with the honesty and integrity they deserve.