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Gates's 'don't ask' letter angers gay rights groups

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Gay rights groups and supportive Democratic lawmakers spent the weekend striking back at Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and their request that Congress not vote to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy until after the Pentagon finishes a review of a potential repeal.

Activists want Congress to freeze the dismissals of gay service members in this year's Defense Authorization Bill, claiming they have the votes in the House and are only a few votes shy on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But in a letter sent Friday to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the Pentagon leaders said imposing a moratorium on the military's gay ban before the end of a review "would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence, their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families."

Activists and supporters said the letter puts their efforts in jeopardy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (subject of a fantastic Paul Kane missive in Sunday's Post) said Friday that Congress should “immediately place a moratorium on dismissals under this policy until the review has been completed and Congress has acted.”

Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which has researched the gay ban, said “The White House knows that the political environment will become more challenging over time. If repeal doesn’t happen this calendar year, it is unlikely to pass until after the next presidential election.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said Sunday at a White House rally that Gates' statement "delivered a devastating blow to getting repeal done this year."

The letter -- a "joint political decision" by Obama and Gates, "showed a lack of respect for our LGBT service members who are on the frontlines every day risking their lives for our safety," Sarvis said. (More on that rally here.)

Noting that Obama pledged to repeal "don't ask" this year, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, said the presidents needs to address Gates's "contradiction" immediately: “There is no reason that Congress cannot move forward with repeal while the Pentagon’s review of how – not if – to end the ban on open service continues apace," Solmonese said.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor also said Friday that this is a "how, not if" argument: "That’s why we’ve said that the implementation of any congressional repeal will be delayed until the DOD study of how best to implement that repeal is completed," Vietor said. "The president is committed to getting this done both soon and right.”

So what do you think? Get a repeal into legislation before the Pentagon finishes its review or wait until their study is completed?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says Iran will try to divert United Nations conference on non-proliferation and denies any Supreme Court ambitions. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar calls the Gulf Coast oil spill "a very grave scenario." EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson takes a big role in the cleanup efforts. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel urges caution in seeking an immigration overhaul. U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman keeping his political options open. Deputy Chief of Mission to the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan Gerald Michael Feierstein named ambassador to Yemen. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair urges lawmakers to scrap plan that would force banks to spin off their derivatives businesses. Obama's recent appointees to the Federal Reserve signal new emphasis on supervision of financial institutions. Great profile of the chief of staff of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who's also her grandson.

BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS:
Chaos at the Broadcasting Board of Governors: The agency "is the most worthless organization in the federal government," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said in a Friday interview.

CENSUS BUREAU:
Census Bureau bags made by Industries for the Blind: More than 1 million 2010 Census bags were designed and manufactured by the Industries for the Blind-Milwaukee, a nonprofit that employs around 100 people.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Pentagon in race for raw materials: Competition from China and other countries raises concerns about the cost and availability of resources deemed vital to national security.

Military recruiters target of Times Square bomb?: The Nissan Pathfinder that contained a crude bomb was parked only yards from an Armed Forces recruiting station in Times Square that has been the target of an earlier anarchist attack and protests.

EDUCATION DEPARTMENT:
Education Department changes the music: Elevator music is out. “Schoolhouse Rock!” is in.

FCC:
Genachowski prefers to keep framework for broadband unchanged: The agency chairman is leaning toward keeping the current regulatory framework for broadband services in place, ater a federal court decision last month showed weaknesses in the agency’s legal status over broadband service providers.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
NTEU files motion to end internship program: The union says the program undercuts the principles at the core of merit-based hiring in the federal sector.

Agency saves time and money with online recruiting: The National Security Agency could tailor a fair to draw the kind of tech-savvy candidates it was seeking, instead of wading through the more generalized community of job seekers.

Contracting program to help the disadvantaged riddled with fraud: A watchdog has found that con artists and ineligible companies gamed the government's procurement system to fraudulently win small business contracts, this time in a program designed to assist economically disadvantaged individuals.

MINERALS MANAGEMENT SERVICE:
Safety device questioned in '04: Federal regulators learned in a 2004 study that a vital piece of oil-drilling safety equipment may not function in deep-water seas but did nothing to bolster industry requirements.

NASA:
NASA chief draws fire for rich benefits plan: Charles Bolden is under fire for his efforts to secure generous lifetime health benefits for former astronauts, including himself, in the latest controversy over his leadership.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | May 3, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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Next: Oil spill: Update on the government response

Comments

VERY disheartening. Obama is a great disappointment to those of us from the gay community who voted for him - on this issue as on many others. He always moves too slowly and indecisively. I can't figure out if it is just that he wants to be liked by everyone or that he simply does not have the convictions he claimed in the campaign. Anyway, many of us could never vote for a Republican, so he has that safety buffer. But he had better not count on this forever or I, for one, will simply not vote next time.

Posted by: nymec | May 3, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I think the President is actively trying to avoid fulfilling his promise to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. He arranged for the Pentagon to do a study that won't be complete until December, too late for the current Congress to act. Republicans will have more seats in the next Congress. When the repeal bill fails, the President will blame the Republican party for his failure to fulfill his promise, which he could easily have made good on in 2009-2010.

Gay and lesbian voters have had an abusive relationship with the Democratic Party for too long. The Democrats keep telling us that they'll let us serve in the military, pass non-discrimination legislation, and provide legal recognition for our relationships, if only we'll help them win the next election. When they do win, they don't do jack squat for us. If you think a largely symbolic hate crimes law or an unenforceable executive order regarding hospital visitation counts as substantial progress, think again. These are crumbs, and we were promised a full meal.

It's time for gay people to break off our abusive relationship with the Democratic Party. I normally vote for Democrats, but I will not vote for Democrats this fall if by November there has been no vote on repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" or on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. If there are relatively gay-friendly Republicans on the ballot, like Tom Campbell of California, I will vote for them, even though I don't support Republican economic policy. Otherwise, I will stay home. I urge all gay voters and gay rights supporters to do the same.

Posted by: equalrights | May 3, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

There he goes again - our "fierce advocate". We'll, I've had enough of his lame BS - I won't vote for Obama again.

Posted by: Manwolf | May 3, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

wow, so the "views, concerns and perspectives" of the enlisted trumps doing what is right by ending discrimination?

Posted by: SaysEye | May 3, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Solmonese? He and the HRC are irrelevant, how did he land a quotation in this article.

Posted by: praestant | May 3, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

They didn't ask service members if serving with blacks would be a problem and you can look at someone and tell if they're black... Our country is run by spineless mental midgets.

Posted by: madest | May 4, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

What would that awful message be?

"Gay soldiers deserve to be respected like all other soldiers."

Imagine how awful that would be for troop morale, especially since we are more than a decade behind our Allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in integrating gays into the military.

Britain integrated gays in 1997, Canada in 1992, and Israel in 1993. Why US soldiers somehow cannot accept gays like their closest allies is something proponents of discrimination cannot answer, and it is an insult to the American soldier.

Posted by: AxelDC | May 4, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I seem to notice that those who oppose dadt, have very little tolerace for those who wish for dadt to remain the policy of our military. Those in the military realize that at any given time in the mist of war you may need to recieve blood from your buddy in battle in such cases it is imperative that the individual giving is an exceptable donor. I give blood reguarly at the red cross and those who have even had one encounter with someone of the same sex is excluded, or if you have had sex with someone for money , you are excluded. Given such policies from the red cross don't you think that a deligent study by the military is in order. We all have freedom of conscience to chose our own actions , but always realize that your choices can have consequences. Many of which may be unentended, but consequences none the less.

Posted by: freedomofconscience | May 4, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I am extremely disappointed that Gates sent this letter and more disappointed that President Obama certainly had to concur with it. Shame on them for torpedoing the progress we have been making to end DADT. While I respect the need to have feedback from the troops about HOW best to undertake this change in the military, this could happen concurrent with the passage of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, the Senate version of which has a timetable for full implementation. I doubt if Harry Truman asked his troops if they would serve with African Americans. Shame on Obama - I am about to give up on him

Posted by: Hillegeistb | May 4, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

It is time that all LGBT People stop sending money to the Democratic Party. They have always relied on our vote to get then elected. We have waited to long for them to do whats right. Get rid of DADT, Doma, and give use full citizenship as an American. I was discharge for being gay in 1972 by the Air Force after 17 years faithful service. The men and women that are being dischared for the same reason now is an out and out act of discrimination and bigotry.
Maybe we should keep our money and not vote at all.
To the republicians I say grow up and do your job which is to work with the democrates to slove problems not about your damn money or Religion. We put you there we can vote you out.

Posted by: larry418 | May 8, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

It is time that all LGBT People stop sending money to the Democratic Party. They have always relied on our vote to get then elected. We have waited to long for them to do whats right. Get rid of DADT, Doma, and give use full citizenship as an American. I was discharge for being gay in 1972 by the Air Force after 17 years faithful service. The men and women that are being dischared for the same reason now is an out and out act of discrimination and bigotry.
Maybe we should keep our money and not vote at all.

Posted by: larry418 | May 8, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

"would send a very damaging message to our men and women in uniform that in essence, their views, concerns and perspectives do not matter on an issue with such a direct impact and consequence for them and their families."--which men and women in uniform?
I don't think that it would be a damaging message to the men and women in uniform that happen to be gay.

Posted by: StClair1949 | May 9, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

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