New urgency on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell

President Barack Obama's spokesman confirmed in January that the president is committed to ending the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which prohibits gay and lesbian soldiers from being open about their sexual orientation. The official White House website still promises to repeal this policy.

Congressional action is required to change Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and there have been some questions about whether Congress will get a bill on this to Obama's desk during 2009.

The advance of marriage equality in Iowa and Vermont brings new urgency to the matter. The Des Moines Register reports on the front page of Monday's edition,

Gay and lesbian military service members who are legally married in Iowa can still be involuntarily discharged from the Iowa National Guard and other military branches under a federal law that prevents homosexuals from openly serving in the armed forces, military officials say.

The federal law, approved by Congress in 1993, takes precedence over the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in April that legalized same-sex marriage, according to legal experts. The ruling struck down Iowa's Defense of Marriage Act, which had limited marriage to a man and a woman.

The Iowa National Guard is prevented from implementing the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling for its personnel because it is a federally recognized military organization, said Lt. Col. Gregory Hapgood Jr., the Iowa National Guard's public affairs officer. [...]

The federal law allows the military to discharge members who engage in or attempt to engage in homosexual acts, and those who state they are homosexual or bisexual. The law says that military life is fundamentally different from civilian life. It also says the prohibition against homosexual conduct is a long-standing element of military law that continues to be necessary in the unique circumstances of military service.

The ban on same-sex marriage by National Guard members and other military service personnel also applies in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont, the three other states with legalized same-sex marriage, said Emily Hecht, a lawyer for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group dedicated to repealing the federal law. Same-sex marriage will be legal in Vermont as of Sept. 1.

In December I wrote that Barack Obama needs to keep his word on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Some commenters in the thread at MyDD argued that it was prudent for Obama to proceed cautiously on this issue, so as not to repeat the mistakes of the Clinton administration in 1993.

Even if Obama doesn't take the advice of former Clinton White House staffer Richard Socarides, who advocated "bold action" on behalf of gay Americans in this Washington Post op-ed, the least the president can do is urge Congress to move quickly on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Public opinion has shifted dramatically since 1993. Multiple national polls have shown large majorities in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

Servicemen and servicewomen should not be forced to choose between their jobs and exercising their civil marriage rights.

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Obama needs to keep his word on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

At Daily Kos and VetVoice, Brandon Friedman of VoteVets brings us the news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has authorized a new pilot program allowing the armed forces to recruit "up to 1,000 foreigners who have lived in the states legally for at least two years" and who have medical and language skills that are "vital to the national interest."

As Friedman points out, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy led to 3,715 troops being discharged between 2002 and 2006. Clearly, many of those people had been trained as doctors, nurses and linguists. (Friedman profiles one person who falls into each category.) In 2007 alone, 58 gay Arabic-language speakers were forced to leave the U.S. armed forces.

It makes no sense for the military to recruit foreigners to do jobs Americans are willing and able to do. Barack Obama has promised to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Aubrey Sarvis, who heads the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, says he is confident Obama will keep that promise. But last month Sarvis indicated Obama may wait several months or even until 2010 before asking Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Whether a delay is smart politics is debatable. Perhaps finding consensus on other issues first is important. Perhaps packaging the repeal as part of a larger bill on military staffing makes sense. Punting this move until an election year may or may not be wise. Although a majority of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, the issue has the potential to rile up the Republican base.

But the need for the military to have sufficient skilled personnel should trump all political arguments. If Obama is serious about being pragmatic (putting policy above political considerations), then he and his defense secretary cannot justify recruiting foreigners to do jobs Americans are willing and able to do. Remember, these medical and language skills are "vital to the national interest."

Your move, President-elect Obama.

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So America Isn't So Homophobic?

(Proudly cross-posted at C4O Democrats)

I guess not. Believe it or not, most Americans don't hate queer people.

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Take a Deep Breath, Count to 10

(Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama)

Some of you are going to be surprised to see these words coming from me, and I implore you to read the entire diary before you begin throwing flames.

I've been defending Obama at every turn since late March. I defended him against the people who were using Wright to attack him; I defended him against bittergate; I scoffed at fingergate. I defended him until I pissed off at least half the Clinton supporters on this site. I made myself pretty unpopular with people I once liked, but I didn't care. I felt I was doing the right thing by defending him because I thought it likely that he'd become the nominee. I was trying to be fair, attempting to be moderate. I probably spent more time criticizing Hillary than Obama because she was my candidate, and I held her to a higher standard. So through my efforts to remain rational and speak in measured tones, I gave Obama the benefit of the doubt - always - for approximately three months. I stuck my neck out for him on MyDD and in my personal life, much to the displeasure of my Hillary supporter friends and my Republican parents (who came to grudgingly respect my admiration for Hillary, but felt nothing but disdain for "the empty suit"). I defended him and didn't mind doing so. I kept my doubts to myself.

But I'm profoundly upset right now, and I refuse to lie or mask my disappointment.

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The Thugs Lose Again

This is ripped off from a Huffington post article, but for some reason it excites me more than the California ruling.   A Texas appeals court dealt a blow to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy" by reinstating a lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force by Maj. Margaret Witt, who was discharged under the policy after 18 years of service.  The judges ruled that discharge could not be automatic because a person was gay,  That the military was required to provide proof, for each individual occurance, that morale and readiness was undermined.  I do not have much to say about this. I am just excited about another liberal victory.  And a victory for human rights!  Here are some excerpts from the article I found on Huffington post, by Gene Johnson:

It is also the first appeals court ruling in the country that evaluated the policy through the lens of a 2003 Supreme Court decision that struck down a Texas ban on sodomy as an unconstitutional intrusion on privacy.

But the Supreme Court's opinion in the Texas case changed the legal landscape, the judges said, and requires more scrutiny over whether "don't ask, don't tell" is constitutional as applied in individual cases.

Under the latest ruling, military officials "need to prove that having this particular gay person in the unit really hurts morale, and the only way to improve morale is to discharge this person," said Aaron Caplan, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state who worked on the case.

"When the government attempts to intrude upon the personal and private lives of homosexuals, the government must advance an important governmental interest ... and the intrusion must be necessary to further that interest," Judge Ronald M. Gould wrote.

One of the judges, William C. Canby Jr., issued a partial dissent, saying that the ruling didn't go far enough. He argued that the Air Force should have to show that the policy itself "is necessary to serve a compelling governmental interest and that it sweeps no more broadly than necessary."

Gay service members who are discharged can sue in federal court, and if the military doesn't prove it had a good reason for the dismissal, the cases will go forward, Caplan said.

Another attorney for Witt, James Lobsenz, hailed the ruling as the beginning of the end for "don't ask, don't tell."

Great job ACLU and everyone else who stands up for the rights of the individual!

The military cannot automatically discharge people because they're gay.

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