Levin: Hearings to examine ‘Don't ask, don't tell’ repeal likely next year

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) signaled that the much-anticipated hearings examining the possible repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" will likely happen next year.

Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has always opposed the "Don't ask, don't tell” policy and had hoped to hold a hearing in November, but this month appears out of question and December appears unlikely.

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"We may not be able to have the hearing this year," Levin said in any interview on C-SPAN's Newsmakers program, which will air Sunday.

The principal reason for the delay is that Levin's panel is examining the shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, which left 13 people dead and more than 30 injured. After several closed-door briefings, Levin said he planned to hold public hearings on the incident.

Levin stressed, however, that the delay necessitated by current events should not be interpreted "as any effort to avoid the hearing" on the subject.

Levin said that a repeal of the Clinton-era ban on openly gay people in the military cannot happen without a "careful" review by the armed forces.

In order to succeed in "dropping the policy" Congress has to listen to the military's concerns, but without giving up the goal of repealing the ban, Levin said. The repeal has to work in a way where it does not create conflict within the military or morale problems, he noted.

Despite the delay in the hearing schedule, Levin said time is not being lost because the Pentagon is already reviewing the policy.

Levin said that the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act could be one of the vehicles to carry repeal legislation.

President Barack Obama promised the repeal during his presidential campaign. After coming under fire from gay-rights groups for not doing more to end the policy, Obama, in October, reiterated his pledge to repeal the law.