DADT Repeal Unlikely Thanks To Election Results

The odds that Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be repealed anytime in the near future are fairly close to zero thanks to the results of last Tuesday's elections.

Today’s Wall Street Journal notes that the results of the 2010 midterms, combined with Democratic failures to advance the issue over the past two years, make it unlikely that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be repealed anytime soon:

The drive in Congress to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy appears all but lost for the foreseeable future, with action unlikely this year and even less likely once Republicans take charge of the House in January.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he wants to overturn the policy, which bans gays from serving openly in the armed forces. Advocates on both sides believed the issue had a chance of coming up in this month’s post-election session of Congress. Now that looks unlikely.

Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are in talks on stripping the proposed repeal and other controversial provisions from a broader defense bill, leaving the repeal with no legislative vehicle to carry it. With a repeal attached, and amid Republican complaints over the terms of the debate, the defense bill had failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate in September.

A spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, who opposes the repeal, confirmed he is in talks with Mr. Levin on how to proceed on the defense bill but didn’t provide details.

Adam Serwer blasts Democrats for failing to gain passage of something that polls continue to show that a majority of Americans support:

If Democrats can’t repeal a policy more than two thirds of the American people, including a majority of conservatives want gone then they can’t expect people to vote for them. Preserving DADT is rank absurdity, even in 1993 the RAND study commissioned by the government showed that combat effectiveness would not be harmed by allowing openly gay servicemembers to serve, and the fact that DADT investigations are sometimes delayed when servicemembers are deployed undermines the notion that openly gay servicemembers harm the war effort.

The plain fact of the matter is that DADT undermines the military by forcing discharges of servicemembers with critical skills and walling off an entire section of the population from recruitment. The only remaining arguments for preserving DADT are premised on archaic cultural attitudes towards homosexuality, and Republicans’ insistence on undermining the military by blocking repeal is vanity, a projection of their own superficial prejudices onto the very servicemembers they claim to respect.

That Democrats would cave on this now shows how far the party of Harry Truman has fallen.

Kevin Drum argues that the fault for failure here lies with Republicans, not Democrats:

Democratic spinelessness on this is worth mocking. But let’s get real: the problem isn’t with Senate Democrats, 97% of whom voted to repeal DADT in September. The problem is with Republicans, 100% of whom voted against repeal even though, as the Gallup poll above shows, repeal is favored by 60% of Republicans, a majority of conservatives, the Secretary of Defense, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

100%. Not one single Republican was willing to buck the tea party hordes and vote for DADT repeal. Even Susan Collins of Maine, the only Republican who publicly supports repeal, concocted a transparently bogus excuse not to vote for it.

Drum’s point is well-taken, but it’s worth noting that the August vote on the Defense bill that included DADT repeal ended up getting mired down in election year politics on both sides of the aisle. For inexplicable reasons, Harry Reid attached a controversial immigration bill to the package and then refused Republican requests to open up the bill to amendment during debate. That parliamentary maneuver cost him the support of at least one Republican, as well as both Arkansas Democrats. At the same time, the GOP continues to hide behind the phony issue of waiting for a Pentagon study that is focused not on whether DADT repeal should happen, but how it should be implemented when it occurs. That report will be released in December and will reportedly reveal, among other things, that a majority of soldiers are just fine with allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly beside them. Unfortunately, though, that report will be too late for the lame duck session which starts in only a week, and is unlikely to be viewed with much seriousness by a Republican House beholden to other constituencies.

It’s truly unfortunate. This is a law that should have been repealed long ago. Thanks to politics, though, it’s likely to remain in place until either Congress, or a Court, says otherwise.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Gender Issues, Military Affairs, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Janis Gore says:

    The military didn’t care when they drafted my brother in ’66. Sure, he could’ve waved his wrists and been 4F’d with a “degenerate” note on his file.

    But he served without too much disruption in Vietnam.

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Why is this a phony study? Even the Democrats have conditioned repeal of DADT on a report from the Defense Department that demonstrates that the ban can be lifted in such a way that military effectiveness will not be harmed.

  3. Truman didn’t need a study to end racial segregation in the military in 1948, that’s why

  4. PD Shaw says:

    Race does not equal gender.

  5. PD Shaw says:

    My main point though is that the Congress is abdicating it’s responsibility if it is trying to condition repeal of DADT on a study that has not yet been released. If Congress doesn’t care about the study, then that’s another matter, just vote to repeal it.

  6. Janis Gore says:

    Rino moron, queers have been infiltrating the barracks, showers and mess halls of the U.S. Army since 1966. I know that for a fact.

  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Janis what you say is true, but nobody asked and nobody told. There were gay soldiers in the outfit I served in. We all knew it but they did not say they were and we did not ask. This was long before Clinton. Why not just let the military decide who and what it needs to serve? Our military is our most important government service, no activists allowed.

  8. Janis Gore says:

    From what I can tell, ZR, the people who are being charged are being charged for things that are being done off-base. Somebody is telling.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    In the Witt case, I believe it was an off-base, civilian neighbor who narked on a lesbian flight nurse. I don’t understand how the military’s conduct can be squared with the spirit, if not the letter, of DADT. It sounds like non-military activitists are being allowed to direct military policy.

  10. wr says:

    A military that allows in Zels — a man who advocates armed rebellion against the United States if elections don’t go his way — and won’t let in gays who only want to serve is an embarassment.

  11. wr says:

    Of course, that’s assuming that the military Zels wasn’t led by GI Joe and Major Matt Mason….

  12. An Interested Party says:

    “Race does not equal gender.”

    “Race” being a social construct, as all of us, no matter our skin shade, are all part of the same species…even if one accepts the view of “race”, this statement is only true if one believes that being homosexual is simply a “choice” and not innate…like the following misguided statement…

    “Being black is not a behavioral choice”

    Neither is being gay…

  13. ponce says:

    When DADT is repealed, the crazy cons will have a hard time campaigning against same sex marriage..

  14. Franklin says:

    You’ll have to excuse Rino Moron, I believe he just got fired from his job as Assistant AG of Michigan today.

  15. anjin-san says:

    Sweet land of liberty…

  16. G.A.Phillips says:

    anjin, what did you spend the money on?

  17. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Being black is not a behavioral choice***

    Thats not what most liberals think.