A Pentagon working group is now studying the issue of repealing the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that has banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military since 1993. The final report is due December 1, but Democrats in Congress do not want to wait that long to take action undoing the policy.
So on Monday, the White House fulfilled the hopes of gay rights groups by agreeing to support an effort in the House and Senate to approve a repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” which would be contingent upon the later approval of the Armed Forces following the working group report. In a letter to Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., White House budget chief Peter Orszag wrote:
The proposed amendment will allow for completion of the Comprehensive Review, enable the Department of Defense to assess the results of the review, and ensure that the implementation of the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention. . . . Furthermore, 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.
In short, the Lieberman proposal will put control over the decision about policy for gays in the military back in the hands of the military, where the leadership has already endorsed a change. Joe Solmonese, the head of the Human Rights Campaign, released an enthusiastic statement in response to the White House announcement. “We are on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, President Obama will travel to San Francisco, the county with the highest percentage of same-sex households in the nation, to attend fundraisers for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.