What to do with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

A little over a month ago, a filibuster by Sen. John McCain effectively blocked a defense bill that contained an amendment which would have repealed the infamous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Personally, I am opposed to “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  I feel that anyone willing to serve and protect his or her country should be given the right to do so.  I have the utmost respect for anyone who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, regardless of sexual orientation.

The “Murphy Amendment,” which contained the clause that would have repealed the policy, was attached to the Defense Authorization bill that failed in a vote of 56-43 last month.

Many gay and lesbian activists were optimistic about the passage of this bill and the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. As the bill failed, many individuals became concerned that it would be quite some time before this debate was brought up for a vote again.

However, just last week the Obama White House made clear that the repeal of this dated policy is a priority of the administration.

According to advocate.com, sources from within the White House speaking anonymously, presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messima held a private meeting with parties interested in a legislative appeal of the policy.

One could assume that the Obama White House and Congressional Democrats are planning a repeal of the policy in the upcoming session when members return from the elections.

The issue of gays serving in the military has been an issue for generations, but “don’t ask, don’t tell” was created in 1992.

During his Presidential campaign, Clinton vowed to lift the ban on gays in the military.  However, the initial attempt failed and Congress passed a law that stated gays had every right to serve as long as they did not reveal their orientation.

This brings us to the debate that we have today.

There is a right way and a wrong way to go about the repeal.

This past attempt was the wrong way.

First, the defense bill that the Murphy Amendment was attached to also had another amendment: the DREAM Act.  This amendment, authored by Sen. Harry Reid, sought to give individuals who entered the United States before reaching the age of 16 and have lived here for five years a path to citizenship.

Obviously, an immigration amendment has no place on a defense bill.

Secondly, no drastic measures should be made on the policy until the Department of Defense can conduct a thorough assessment of what repealing the policy would do.

In late April of this year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen sent a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton.

In the letter, Gates and Mullen said that an immediate passage and removal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would “send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter.”

This is a very valid point and, as we speak, the Department of Defense is compiling the input of thousands of service members to place in an official report to be presented to President Obama Dec. 1.

If “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed overnight, its effects on the military could be deadly, as Gates and Mullen pointed out.  That’s why I feel no decisions should be made until their final report is published.

I hope to see this policy changed at some point in my lifetime. However, it should be done consciously, smoothly and effectively.

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