Don’t ask, don’t tell

What’s the future of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the U.S. military?

National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation tackled the subject today.

“I don’t see why we’re cutting off people at a time when we need them in the military,” Alex of Mankato said when he called the program. He’s in the Minnesota National Guard and has recently returned from Kosovo. “Whether or not they’re officially outed, you will know within the unit who is gay and who is not.”

The policy, which turned 15 this year, ended the military’s practice of asking recruits whether they are gay, but dismisses those who acknowledge that they are. A bill to repeal the policy has 149 co-sponsors, including Reps. Oberstar, McCollum and Ellison in Minnesota, but not Rep. Tim Walz nor Rep. John Kline, two recent veterans of military service.

A poll from the Washington Post last summer found 75 percent of those surveyed favored allowing homosexuals to serve in the military.

The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder writes today that President-elect Barack Obama has little choice but to punt on the issue:

For one, the LGBT community is at a period of weakness, coming off losses in California and Florida on propositions to outlaw gay marriage. By focusing initially on an issue prominent in the LGBT community, Obama would be essentially ignoring the message he received from two states that helped get him elected, which supported a Democratic candidate but did not back steps forward in gay rights. A repeal now would be perceived as an appeal to a liberal base at a time when he should be reaching out to moderates, including religious moderates for whom gay issues remain a touchy subject.