Sen. Levin asked to hold off on hearing to repeal ‘Don't ask, don't tell’ policy

The White House has asked the top Senate Democrat on military affairs to postpone announcing a hearing that would explore repealing the controversial law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was expected to have Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen testify before his committee on recent calls to end the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

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The hearing had been expected at the end of January. Now the target date is expected to be Feb. 11, a source said.

Levin was told to hold off on announcing the hearing until after the president’s address Wednesday, according to a Senate aide. Levin was also told that Obama will address the issue of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in his speech on Wednesday, but Levin does not know what’s in the speech, the aide added. Levin also mentioned this in a huddle with reporters on Monday.

"Somebody representing the Pentagon said that the White House, that the president was expected, they thought, to state that policy at the State of the Union," Levin said.

A source familiar with some details of the initial draft of the State of the Union said it would address the repeal of the controversial law. Obama has made it his campaign promise to repeal the Clinton-era law. Obama has come under increasing pressure from gay-rights advocates to move on the repeal.

Gay-rights advocates are eyeing the change in law for this year, but it is unclear how Obama will proceed. The Pentagon has moved slowly on the issue, and there have been reports of internal dissent on how fast changes to the law should be instituted.

Levin has always opposed “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and has said publicly he supports the repeal. Meanwhile, his House counterpart, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), said he opposes the repeal. Skelton played a major role in crafting the controversial law. When President Bill Clinton wanted to lift the ban preventing gay people from joining the military, Skelton opposed the move. The end result was a compromise under which gay service members would have to conceal their sexual orientation.

“Servicemembers Legal Defense Network encourages the president to address the repeal of ‘Don’t ask don’t tell’ and share his plan with the American people,” said Aubrey Sarvis, the executive director of SLDN, the organization at the forefront of the repeal fight.