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.

  • brian

    It seems silly to me that something that 75% of Americans agree on is too “touchy” of a subject to get done.

  • Alison

    The irony of it all – people who hate gays don’t want gays in jobs where you stand a decent chance of getting killed.

  • The equation of marriage bans with DADT is also comparing apples and oranges, really. Even many people who don’t believe that gay men & women should be allowed to legally wed are fully in support of granting them equal rights & status in (virtually) all other areas, such as protection from employment & housing discrimination, military service, and hospital visitation rights, for example.

    I think the average American has come to accept that gays & lesbians are essentially morally equal to heterosexuals, but still feels uneasy when the term “marriage” is applied to a same-sex couple. A Quinnipiac University Poll in July showed that only 29% of Americans did not believe that same-sex couples deserved some form of legal recognition. If the number of respondents supporting gay marraige are added to those favoring civil unions that have all the same benefits of marriage except the name, an overwhelming majority of 65% of Americans believe gay and lesbian people should have the same legal rights and responsibilities as heterosexuals. It’s just that thorny little word “marriage” that’s holding back relationship equality.

    So President-Elect Obama’s working to repeal DADT early in his presidency would not only be an easy way to build up political capital and show his willingness to fulfill his campaign promises (which included the end of DADT), it’s an action that isn’t nearly as politically divisive as the issue of marriage. I would argue that failing to act to repeal the military service ban would be seen as an appeal to social conservatives at a time when Mr. Obama has the momentum to bring about fundamental change in attitudes and perceptions.

  • Bob

    If Obama has any moral courage, he’ll boot the DADT policy right away — politics be damned.

    While he’s at it, he should also rescind combat duty restrictions on female soldiers.

    I think Ted Turner has the right attitude about gay marriage: “I don’t care if gays want to marry. As long as I can marry who I want, they can marry who they want.”

  • “people who hate gays don’t want gays in jobs where you stand a decent chance of getting killed.”

    Actually, it’s more like “they” stand a decent chance of getting *you* killed (the way my military friends in combat arms put it).

    That said, this social conservative is all for repealing DADT and treating any of the fraternization issues (the “impacts on morale” that the military is concerned about) under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, if they occur.

  • Alison

    A few more bits of irony:

    There are gays who want to offer their service, and possibly their lives, fighting for a country that doesn’t grant them many of the rights that staight citizens have.

    Many of the social conservatives who support DADT are big supporters of the military. This is despite the fact that the religion they use to justify their position on gays also has commandments like “Thou shalt not kill” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”.