WASHINGTON, D.C. — The battle over a possible repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy is heating up on Capitol Hill. During the first weekend of May, two Navy admirals, one retired and one the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke out on the issue of repealing the 1993 law signed by President Bill Clinton.
On May 3, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), pictured right, a retired three-star admiral and the highest ranking military veteran in Congress, urged his colleagues to join him and 16 other veterans pledging their names to the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1246).
Speaking at West Point the following day, Adm. Mike Mullen, pictured left, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told graduating U.S. Military Academy cadets that DADT “is a law, and we follow it. Should the law change, the military will carry that out too.”
“It is easy for me to see why ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ should be repealed,” said Sestak, who spent 31 years in the Navy. “Once you have served in war and faced danger with a gay service member, how can you come home and say gay people should not enjoy equal rights? It is simple. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ must be repealed.”
The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would allow lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel to serve openly, is currently cosponsored by 142 members of Congress, including the 17 veterans.
“Veterans like Adm. Sestak, who have dedicated their lives to serving this country, are leading the movement in Congress to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).
“These lawmakers agree with senior military officers, including former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalishkashvili and retired Army Maj. Gen. Vance Coleman, that when it comes to defusing IEDs, tending to injured troops, deciphering enemy codes and flying reconnaissance missions — sexual orientation is irrelevant.”
As reported in the May 3 issue of Q-Notes, the military has recently come under fire for recruiting more than 700 felons in 2007, while dismissing almost as many gay service members in 2006 and 2007.
The increasing calls for repeal aren’t going unchallenged. Elaine Donnelly, president of the so-called Center for Military Readiness, recently revamped her group’s campaign to “protect” the military from “attacks” by gay activists.
The initiative’s new website, Americans for the Military, directs citizens to sign a petition calling on Congress to keep the gay ban in place.
“Our nation’s military should not be used as a tool to advance the goals of gay activist groups,” the petition states. “Forcing a sexual agenda on the armed forces would hurt discipline and morale…As an American I ask that you uphold this law to help to protect and preserve our military.”
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) have pushed back against Donnelly’s campaign to keep anti-gay prejudice part and parcel of the armed services.
“It is outrageous that some in our country would answer the service and sacrifice of their fellow citizens by calling for them to be fired simply because of who they are,” said PFLAG Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby.
“Ms. Donnelly has recycled the same tired, misleading and disproven rhetoric that has been used for years to keep too many qualified Americans out of our armed forces. All the while, an estimated 65,000 LGBT Americans continue to proudly report for duty in our nation’s military and keep Americans, including Ms. Donnelly, safe and secure.”
Donnelly has prominently supported the military gay ban for years. In a recent, short video from Focus on the Family, she claimed that repeal of DADT would lead to legalized same-sex marriage.
Despite the relentless propagandizing by Donnelly and others on the Right, they are clearly in the minority. According to SLDN, almost 80 percent of the American public agree that DADT should be repealed.