HRC Blog

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Hearing Wrap-Up

Senate-DADT-hearing_feb-2_gates-mullenToday the Senate Armed Services Committee held a historic hearing on the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT) law. Secretary Robert Gates was clear in his prepared statement [pdf] that he “fully supports the President’s decision” to repeal DADT. He went on to say “the question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it” also noting that the actual repeal of the law rests with Congress. Admiral Michael Mullen was clear from the beginning saying that “no matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."  He went on to express his personal opposition to the policy that he said contradicts the military's value of integrity.  Full video is available from C-SPAN. Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., voiced his strong opposition to this policy just as he did in 1993. He was joined by Senators including Mark Udall, D-Colo., Roland Burris, D-Ill., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. Also providing penetrating questions on the current policy were Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Jack Reed, D-R.I. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., led the opposition by providing hypocritical statements such as “many gays and lesbians serve valiantly” only to then say that DADT works when the same service members are discharged under DADT. Also in opposition were Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Secretary Gates outlined a plan that can work in tandem with Congressional action that includes a working group led by Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson and General Carter Ham, Commander of US Army, Europe. The areas of focus of the review will be to understand views and attitudes regarding repeal; assess what policies and procedures would need to be changed under a new law; and examine the impact of repeal and mitigate any negative consequences. In the interim, Secretary Gates announced he has directed the Department over the next 45 days to assess the current regulations on how DADT is implemented.  He said, "we believe that we have a degree of latitude within existing law to change our internal procedures in a manner than is more appropriate and fair to our men and women in uniform."  Senator Lieberman asked the Secretary continue to update the Senate as the process unfolds. In his opening, Chairman Levin announced that a follow-up hearing will occur on February 11 and that other Pentagon officials would be questioned on the topic during the coming month's budget hearing. More information on HRC's efforts to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and ways to take action are at Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese's statement follows the jump... Said Solmonese:

“Today is a historic step forward in repealing a shameful law that has harmed the military, discharged thousands of talented and patriotic Americans and prevented thousands more from serving their country. Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been unworkable from the start.  When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense, who also served under President Bush, direct the military to mitigate the pace of discharges while moving toward implementation, we know that Don't Ask Don't Tell is on its way out. Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen made clear today that this military review is about how, not if this policy will be repealed despite the protest from vocal opponents on the Armed Services Committee.  As the Secretary said in his opening statement, "The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how best we prepare for it." We applaud Chairman Levin's suggestion that the discharges be halted while this review is underway, and we urge the President and Congress to move quickly on this important first step. We acknowledge and appreciate President Obama's leadership in bringing the military into line with his ideal.  Make no mistake -- this would not have happened without his insistence.  And we'll need more of that commitment in the months ahead. Today's announcement blunts the day-to-day damage of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but we call on Congress to rescind this law and give the Pentagon the full authority to close the books on this stain of discrimination.  Finally, while we respect the view of our military leaders to limit this review to the military itself, we encourage the Secretary to include outside repeal advocates as well. We will -- as we always have -- work in partnership with the Obama Administration and our allies on the Hill as we continue to work toward full and final repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
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