As the Senate nears a vote on the defense appropriations bill, which currently includes a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), the ban on gays in the military, many observers are discussing this Clinton-era policy. Is it time for DADT to go? Is Congress ready to repeal? Here's what people have to say in advance of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's test vote planned for Tuesday, which reporters say currently lacks the required 60 votes.
- How DADT Betrays Our Troops Former U.S. Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins, who was expelled for his sexuality, tells his story in the New York Times. "The unit continued to function and I continued to be respected for the work I did. Many, from both companies I commanded, approached me to say that they didn't care if I was gay -- they thought I was one of the best commanders they'd ever had. And unbeknownst to me, many had guessed I was probably gay all along. Most didn't care about my sexuality. I was accepted by most of them, as was my boyfriend, and I had never been happier in the military. Nothing collapsed, no one stopped talking to me, the Earth spun on its axis, and the unit prepared to fight another day," he writes. "There are parts of my story in the lives of all of the gay service members who continue to serve in our military -- and there are 65,000, according to the Urban Institute. Their commitment is immense. So dedicated are they to service that they eschew the rights that every other soldier enjoys. Their road is more difficult than most people realize, and we reward their exceptionally dedicated and selfless service by undermining their ability to live a happy, honest, and fulfilling life - all of which would actually make them even better soldiers."
- Will Repeal 'Drive Out' Essential Troops? Time's Tony Karon writes, "Opponents, fearing that scrapping the ban would lead droves of service personnel to abandon the military and hurt the nation's fighting forces amid two wars, are fighting back and may be on the verge of prevailing. ... Elaine Donnelly, of the non-profit Center for Military Readiness, warns that scrapping 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' could drive people out of the military. 'Combined voluntary and involuntary losses of careerists in communities, grades, and skills that are not easily replaceable could break the all-volunteer force,' she says. An unscientific survey of U.S. troops by the independent Military Times newspapers last fall showed 51 percent opposed lifting the ban."
- Why That Shouldn't Worry Us Wired's Spencer Ackerman writes on his personal blog, "Given the age breakdown of opposition to DADT, the cohort most likely to be responsive to [the concern that some people will leave the military if DADT is repealed] are older officers, particularly colonels/captains and generals/admirals. On the one hand, the desire to continue one’s career is a powerful adhesive. On the other, if those guys end up leaving, maybe Defense Secretary Robert Gates will have his 'brass creep' problem solved for him."
- Can Lady Gaga Secure Necessary Votes? The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe reports, "Lady Gaga plans to visit Maine on Monday in an effort to convince the state's two Republican senators to vote to repeal the law banning gays from serving in the military. ... Reid still lacks the 60 votes necessary to get cloture, according to advocates for and against repealing the law. Maine's senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, have yet to announce how they plan to vote."
- How The Troops Feel About It The Washington Post's Aaron Belkin writes, "It is true that when asked their policy preferences, more troops say they favor DADT than allowing gays to serve openly. But there are several caveats: First, the margin is small, and a large number of troops say they have no opinion. Typically, polls find that about 40 percent of troops prefer DADT, 30 percent prefer open service, and 30 percent have no opinion. Second, the vast majority of troops say they are comfortable working with gays and lesbians. Third, even among those who have an opinion, very few feel strongly about it."