Gays in Military Compromise?
It appears that the Obama Administration and Congress have a deal on ending the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the armed forces.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg for NYT:
President Obama, the Pentagon and leading lawmakers reached agreement Monday on legislative language and a time frame for repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, clearing the way for Congress to take up the measure as soon as this week.
It was not clear whether the deal had secured the votes necessary to pass the House and Senate, but the agreement removed the Pentagon’s objections to having Congress vote quickly on repealing the contentious 17-year-old policy, which bars gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the armed services.
House Democratic leaders were meeting Monday night and considering taking up the measure as soon as Thursday. But even if the measure passes, the policy cannot not change until after Dec. 1, when the Pentagon completes a review of its readiness to deal with the changes. Mr. Obama, his defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff would also be required to certify that repeal would not harm readiness.
The measure could enable gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time, ending a policy that Mr. Obama, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, all say they oppose.
Representative Patrick J. Murphy, Democrat of Pennsylvania and a leading advocate in the House for repeal, is hoping to attach the proposal to a defense authorization bill that will come up for a vote on Thursday.
In the Senate, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, intends to introduce the language on Thursday in the Armed Services Committee.
Michael Shear and Ed O’Keefe for WaPo’s Post Politics add:
In a letter to lawmakers pushing for a legislative repeal, White House budget director Peter Orszag wrote Monday that the administration “supports the proposed amendment.” “Such an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights and suggestions,” he wrote.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is running for reelection and had previously supported a repeal of the law, said at a recent congressional hearing that the legislation is “imperfect but effective” and that “we should not be seeking to overturn.”
Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), a member of the House GOP leadership, said Monday of a repeal: “The American people don’t want the American military to be used to advance a liberal political agenda. And House Republicans will stand on that principle.”
“It is our firm belief that it is time to repeal this discriminatory policy that not only dishonors those who are willing to give their lives in service to their country but also prevents capable men and women with vital skills from serving in the armed forces,” Lieberman and Murphy said in a statement.
If the compromise is approved, the 1993 policy could be removed from the nation’s law books within weeks. That would satisfy one of the most significant promises Obama made to the gay community during his campaign.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. While homosexuality has been normalized enough that we have a president, SECDEF, Joint Chiefs chairman, and probably a majority in Congress willing to go on the record to support gays serving in the military — something that decidedly wasn’t the case when Bill Clinton took office in 1993 — it’s still a hot button issue in much of the country. Referenda to ban gay marriage, for example, seem almost always to pass easily.
Will Republicans mount a filibuster on this issue? I doubt it. And it’s going to be very difficult to mount a credible argument opposing lifting the ban once the Pentagon certifies — which it almost certainly will — that doing so will not harm morale or be prejudicial to good order and discipline in the military.