Top Defense Officials Support Repeal of DADT

February 3, 2010

On Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen and the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified before the Senate Armed Services seeking an end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Admiral Mike Mullen set the tone early by stating, “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 men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens…allowing homosexuals to serve openly would be the right thing to do.” This was the first public statement from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regarding his position on the issue and marks a turning point in finally letting gays and lesbians serve openly in the military.

While they were clear to note that it would take time and study to determine how best to implement the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, they indicated that it was not a question of whether or not to repeal the policy but how to repeal it. According to Secretary Gates, legal scholars have informed him that because the DADT policy originated as an act of Congress, it would take an act of Congress to overturn it—that is, President Obama could not issue an executive order similar to the one that Harry Truman did to desegregate the armed forces in the late 1940’s.

The questioning of Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen by the members of the committee followed a sharp partisan division, with Republican members largely condemning them for already having decided that the law should be repealed without input from Congress, while Democrats praised their bravery and applauded their proposal to create an investigative committee to examine the best way to go about the repeal of the nearly two decade old policy. One note is the conciliatory tone taken by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). Instead of having a prepared speech denouncing the testimony of Mullen and Gates, she asked whether or not policies on the books in other nations such as Canada and Great Britain—both of which allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military—were disruptive. According to Admiral Mullen, they are not, and he believes that this is one of the major reasons that American needs to reexamine its position.

Overall, it is not clear whether or not a repeal of DADT will take place this year. While the House is likely to pass a bill that would allow the repeal, it faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where Democrats will in the next few days lose their 60th vote. This may mean that any attempt to repeal DADT would likely face a Republican filibuster attempt and would require a Republican vote in favor of repeal in order to pass.

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