Congress’ three openly gay lawmakers have mixed feelings about the administration’s path forward for repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy that prohibits gays from serving openly.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said Wednesday that she is “largely” happy with the administration’s plan for rolling back the 1993 policy, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen laid out before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
The plan includes a 45-day review of military procedures and a yearlong implementation study. The 45-day review is expected to recommend that third-party testimony in discharges relating to “don’t ask, don’t tell” no longer be allowed.
But Baldwin said while gay rights advocates have “lots to celebrate” given the endorsement for repeal by top military brass, the caveat is the yearlong review period, which she said is not necessary.
“They have a task force that is going to take I think they said this calendar year … to report on implementation. It’s sort of like, what the heck is that?” said Baldwin.
The Wisconsin Democrat said she would have backed that approach “a year ago … in the sense that it would take us about that long to pass the measure and they would have some great useful recommendations for us.” But at this point, she said, gay rights advocates have already spent the past year building public support for a repeal.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) praised President Barack Obama for sticking to his campaign promise to reverse the policy, which he described as a “shameful pattern of condoning the mistreatment of gay and lesbian Americans who wish to serve our country.”
Frank said the plan laid out by the administration now clears the way for Congress to vote to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the fiscal 2011 Defense authorization bill. He also questioned Gates’ need for the yearlong study since, by the time the president would sign the Defense authorization bill into law, it would be well into 2010 anyway.
“I am unclear as to exactly what forms of implementation the Secretary thinks he needs, since it is acknowledged that gay men and lesbians have served bravely and ably in the military for some time, and have done so increasingly with the knowledge of their fellow servicemembers,” Frank said in a statement.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said he is hopeful the review of military procedures will result in the suspension of gay and lesbian soldiers being expelled, effectively freezing the policy even before a legislative change.
Legislation to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” still “hasn’t passed yet here,” said Polis. “These things take some time.” In the meantime, he said, the 45-day review means it could be “as soon as a month and a half” that gay and lesbian soldiers stop being discharged.