The Big Question: Is this the end of 'Don't ask, don't tell' ban?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.


Today's question:

Is  it time for Congress to end “Don’t ask, don’t tell”?


Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said:

Today we heard Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen begin to lay out a plan for ending the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. They announced the creation of a working group whose outcomes must be nothing less than full equality and full access to all of the benefits and obligations required by military service.
 
Some of the questions the group might explore are ‘Should lesbian, gay and bisexual service members face any restrictions on exhibiting their sexual orientation on the job?’ Not if straight people don’t. “Should the Pentagon be obligated to provide for its domestic partners?” Absolutely. “Should same-sex partners receive the same treatment as opposite-sex partners?” Yes. “Should straight military personnel be compelled to share quarters with lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel?” They already do. Separate but equal is not equal. Different treatment but equal is not equal. Equal means equal. Period.
 
We thank Gates and Mullen for their strong statements today. We have called on the president to find a way for people to serve openly and it appears he is trying, though we are not satisfied with the length of this timeline. We continue to call for the immediate halt to all discharges of service members because of their sexual orientation until Congress fulfills its responsibility to overturn this archaic, unjust law.
 
Committee members like Sens. Chambliss and Sessions have their heads in the sand on the true impact of the existing law. Contrary to their statements, the real story is “Live and don't make a living. Live and lie.”
 
The military has already had 16 years to think about this and other countries have been able to implement equality in the armed services. Let’s get moving. The livelihoods and safety of thousands of service members depend on it.



Lawrence J. Korb and Winnie Stachelberg at the Center for American Progress, said:

"Yes, Congress should work immediately to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The Center for American Progress has been a consistent advocate of repealing this discriminatory and counterproductive law, and we believe the Pentagon can effectively conduct its review of the policy while Congress simultaneously works to dismantle it. While the United States is heavily engaged in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military needs every qualified man and woman willing to serve our country, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“Today’s testimony by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen signaled that the Obama administration and the leadership of our nation’s armed forces are committed to repeal this unfair law. While it is critically important that we get the implementation of a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal right, we at the Center for American Progress believe it is also important that we not unnecessarily delay repeal of this law either. Twenty-six other countries that have ended their bans since 1993, and it is time for the United States to do the same."



Michael J. Wilson, national director of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), said:

It’s WAY past time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.  Congress should move forward and join the President in protecting the rights of us all.  We know that the notion that we are all created equal, and that we are all entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has always been filled with loopholes.  Our nation has made notable progress, extending legal protections and full citizen participation rights to women and people of color.  But the fact that we continue to discriminate against members of our armed forces, who take an oath to defend our nation and are willing to put their lives on the line is a measure of how much further we have to go.  Discharging good soldiers is a waste of resources, undermines morale, and harkens back to a time when discrimination was not only condoned, but expected.  It is 2010. We should NOT go another year – or another day – focused on the personal lives of those that serve in the military.  We should let them focus on accomplishing their mission on behalf of our nation; no matter their race, no matter their gender, no matter their sexual orientation.


Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, said:

Silly me, I thought the function of the Army was to defend the nation. Period. I served in World War II, and wanted the people around me to be as effective as possible, regardless of their other characteristics. What has "don't ask, don't tell" have to do with that? I would guess, NOT being an expert, that some gays would pass that test, and some would not.

Many years ago, I went to the infirmary at a southwestern naval base to have my altitude card renewed (tests your ability to function at high altitude) and the flight physician had me tested for sickle cell anemia, a genetic disease that is extremely rare among whites (which I am). Why, I asked. Because it has been ruled that if we only tested black pilots for the disease, that would be discriminatory. It is self-defeating to inject criteria that have nothing to do with combat effectiveness into the makeup of the armed forces.


Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

"Don't ask, don't tell" is an appalling policy, one that has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with the most primitive prejudice. But what else can one expect of an institution such as the military, particularly the US military in the Age of Empire?

Also, the idea that the concept of equality means that everyone should have the "right" to join an institution that is currently rampaging over the earth, invading countries hither and yon, and causing in incalculable amount of human suffering and material destruction would be laughable if Americans -- particularly gay Americans -- didn't take it so seriously.

No one should join the military -- not gay people, not straight people, not any people. In a free society, the military would be just another job -- working to ensure the defense of the country. In today's America, however, that is most definitely not the function of the military, which has been turned into an instrument of oppression and worse. To say, therefore, that everyone has the "right" to participate in, say, what went on at Abu Graib -- in the name of "justice" -- is self-evidently absurd.


John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

We are fighting two wars in places where the last thing our troops need is this kind of distraction.  Let's focus first on winning the war, and then we can focus on changing social policy in the military. 


Frank Askin, professor of law at Rutgers University, said:

Because there is no reason not to.  If Americans want to fight for their country, why should their sexual orientation be a bar?


John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

As a former USMC officer, I have always been completely opposed to relaxing the prohibition against homosexuals serving in the military.  My 1995 book, Changing Command: The Betrayal of America's Military, contains an entire chapter about the topic. 
 
There is nothing that can destroy the basic military unit more than homosexuality. When called upon to do so, Soldiers/Marines/Airmen/Sailors don't perform extraordinary deeds for headlines, medals, etc.  They do so because of loyalty and comradeship with their fellows.  Take this away and you have gravely harmed how they will perform in a combat situation.  
 
This is why the military had always operated under Department of Defense Directive 1332.14 which states in part: "Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual conduct or who, by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission."
 
Serving in the military is not a right; it is a privilege.  If some can be barred for height, weight, age, physical condition, even failure on an intelligence test, others can and should be barred for homosexuality.   
 
Will a fundamentally moral man encourage his son or daughter to enlist alongside homosexuals? The answer is No and this deprives the military of many of its best possible recruits.
 
Will a homosexual aspire to become part of the military so he or she can be placed in close proximity with potential partners?  The answer is Yes.
 
So yes, it's time for Congress to abandon "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  But not to open more widely the entry and acceptance of homosexuals in the military.  It's time to revert back to full enforcement of DOD Directive 1332.14.


Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University, said:

It's way past time for Congress to end "dot ask, don't tell."  This policy it not only discriminatory but counter-productive.  Thousands of patriotic, hard-working Americans have been forced out of the military despite the fact that they were doing their jobs well and, in some cases such as Arabic translators, providing extremely valuable services.  Public opinion is now strongly on the side of ending DADT so this should be a political plus for those elected officials who support it.  


Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Today we heard Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen begin to lay out a plan for ending the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, don’t Tell” policy. They announced the creation of a working group whose outcomes must be nothing less than full equality and full access to all of the benefits and obligations required by military service.
 
Some of the questions the group might explore are ‘Should lesbian, gay and bisexual service members face any restrictions on exhibiting their sexual orientation on the job?’ Not if straight people don’t. “Should the Pentagon be obligated to provide for its domestic partners?” Absolutely. “Should same-sex partners receive the same treatment as opposite-sex partners?” Yes. “Should straight military personnel be compelled to share quarters with lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel?” They already do. Separate but equal is not equal. Different treatment but equal is not equal. Equal means equal. Period.
 
We thank Gates and Mullen for their strong statements today. We have called on the president to find a way for people to serve openly and it appears he is trying, though we are not satisfied with the length of this timeline. We continue to call for the immediate halt to all discharges of service members because of their sexual orientation until Congress fulfills its responsibility to overturn this archaic, unjust law.
 
Committee members like Sens. Chambliss and Sessions have their heads in the sand on the true impact of the existing law. Contrary to their statements, the real story is “Live and don't make a living. Live and lie.”
 
The military has already had 16 years to think about this and other countries have been able to implement equality in the armed services. Let’s get moving. The livelihoods and safety of thousands of service members depend on it.