The demise of don't ask don't tell
After nearly a year of review, the Pentagon is set to release its report on ending the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military. It was not easy getting here. President Obama and his administration worked at its own deliberate pace to lay the groundwork that saw a Defense Department that recoiled in horror at a similar effort in 1993 openly embrace the change 17 years later.
The slow pace led many in the gay community to question Obama's commitment to ending the shameful policy. But there is no question that we wouldn't be at this historic moment without his leadership. And that leadership will continue to be needed until don't ask don't tell is repealed. That means doing everything possible to secure Republican votes to ensure passage and to steel the spine of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) so that he brings the measure to the floor for a vote as part of the defense authorization bill. Nothing is guaranteed.
In this second "Inside Voice" anthology I reprise the pieces on don't ask don't tell (and one commentary on MSNBC) that make the case for its repeal and for the president's strategy to get it done.
CHAPTER ONE: The Pentagon gets on board
In his first state of the union address, President Obama declared that he would work with the military and congress to end don't ask don't tell because "It's the right thing to do." A week later, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came out in favor of repeal before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Things got a little dicey with the Pentagon in May, but a compromise was reached to keep progress -- however halting -- moving.
CHAPTER TWO: The president
The gay community believes the president can and should issue an executive order to end don't ask don't tell. But at a youth town hall, Obama makes the case for why this act of Congress should be repealed by an act of Congress.
CHAPTER THREE: The American people
Poll after poll shows that the nation believes gay men and lesbians should be able to serve their nation openly.
CHAPTER FOUR: The courts
Inaction by Congress has put the spotlight on the courts. The recent ruling that don't ask don't tell is unconstitutional is right on fairness but the wrong way to address the unfairness.
CHAPTER FIVE: The study
We'll know for sure what the report says today, but leaks of the Pentagon Working Group's study make it clear that an overwhelming majority of the military support the policy change and that ending don't ask don't tell would not harm the armed forces.
CHAPTER SIX: The votes
Republican votes are needed to end the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military. But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who once said he would listen to military leaders on this issue, is threatening a filibuster. Given that the military and the American people favor repeal, I asked "What are you afraid of?" on MSNBC's "The Dylan Ratigan Show."
What is also needed is for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the repeal bill to the floor for a vote. He must not play games. He cannot let this historic moment slip by. He must lead.
Let's get this thing done!
| November 30, 2010; 7:18 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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