The long, tumultuous history of the U.S. militaryâÄôs controversial “DonâÄôt Ask, DonâÄôt Tell” policy, which bans openly gay members from the military, almost came to its overdue end this month. In fact, it almost ended twice. While ending the discriminatory policy right now would be the best solution in the best of worlds, the current situation still lends President Barack Obama a somewhat erstwhile opponent of DADT, an expedient and politically tenable way out of the egregious policy.
Enacted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, DADT was a stop gap rule, a compromise, in order to end the ban on homosexuals serving in the military. The law remained mostly untouched, until the repeal of DADT became a regular promise of Obama on the 2008 campaign trail. ObamaâÄôs promise laid dormant throughout his first year in office until January of this year when Congress held its first hearings to discuss DADT in 17 years.
While the hearings did not reveal much more than the administrationâÄôs plans to repeal DADT, a law which Obama has called, “just wrong,” Obama did order the Pentagon to conduct a study of the effects of a repeal on the military. The studyâÄôs findings are due in December.
While itâÄôs a shame that the administration did not take more exacting measures to end DADT, this past summer the House voted to approve its repeal. With seeming momentum behind the end of DADT when the same bill came before the Senate about a month ago, it failed to be ratified.
This was DADTâÄôs first near death experience this month, a disappointing, though not surprising display of how the Senate has functioned in this midterm election year.
DADT had its second near death experience, just over a week ago, the result of a lawsuit filed in 2004. A federal judge in California ruled that DADT “violates the equal protection and First Amendment rights of service members,” and ordered the U.S. military to immediately stop enforcement of the law.
Undoubtedly, opponents of the law cheered and or fist pumped, upon hearing the news of the ruling. I know I did, in my car, while listening to NPR.
The next step for the Obama administration, to my eager insistence, seemed so clear: Do not challenge the ruling. Sadly, Obama is required to fight for the law of the land, even though he opposes it.
As things have played out, the Justice Department did ask for a stay on the ruling against DADT, and the federal appeals court granted it this past week, pending a ruling that requires more time.
Here, things are in limbo for the repeal of DADT. There is a chance that the federal appeals court upholds the lower court ruling, meaning more court action will ensue. Outside of that, a bill calling for the repeal of DADT should come before the Senate in the upcoming lame duck session, after the midterm elections. Standing proudly as a man afraid to lose his Senate seat, Sen. John McCain has vowed to filibuster any attempt to repeal DADT in the upcoming session.
This situation still offers Obama a solution to repealing DADT; the solution is twofold. First, heâÄôs avoided resolving the issue in the courts, something that will not leave some yelling “Activism!” Second, he has left a lame duck Senate to decide the debate in a consequences-diminished-role. It would be no surprise, that a now fully re-seated McCain, would find his maverickiness again, and vote “yes” to repeal the law. While not a pretty solution to opponents, it would be the third and final death this year, one we should welcome.
Mike Munzenrider welcomes comments at [email protected]