Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The First SOTU Promise Broken?

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Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The First SOTU Promise Broken?

Jodi Jacobson

Will the Obama Administration follow through on promises to end "Dont Ask, Don't Tell," and lift the ban on gays in the military or are we facing same-old, same-old politics from the administration of "change?"

This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal
the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they
love because of who they are.  It’s the right thing to do.   President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 27th, 2010

The thing with politics is that politicians promise lots of things and then find reasons not to do them.  The change we needed was a Democratic President and a Congress that said what they meant, and meant what they said…and weren’t afraid to stand up for it.

A year after Obama’s election, many of those of us who worked hardest to get him there are deeply disappointed…on a range of issues and for a range of reasons.

But then you get to the first State of the Union (SOTU), hopes are raised and you think…let’s give it a chance. One such hope hinged on promises made by the White House and Democrats in Congress in the weeks before the SOTU that they would try to get a repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT)
policy and include the costs of implementation into
this year’s Defense Appropriations bill.

Roe has collapsed in Texas, and that's just the beginning.

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Short-lived dream.

Both gay rights blogs and some mainstream media reports suggest that repeal of DADT–which prevents gays from serving openly in the military–did not appear in the budget released by the White House today.  These same reports suggest the issue will be relegated to a "study panel’ to be convened by Secretary of Defense Bob Gates.

"Observers have been eyeing
the DoD budget
as a possible place for DADT repeal for a while," writes David Dayen at Firedog Lake.
"This," he continues, "would be the most effective way to ensure that repeal passes
Congress," because:

"if it is in the DOD authorization, not a single Democratic senator has said they
would vote to take it out,” said a Hillsource. “I’m hard-pressed to
believe that Democrats would vote with the GOP to strip it out.”

But, the source suggested that if ending the gay ban is not in the Pentagon’s original bill and
repeal has to be added as an amendment, that could
shift how senators view the vote.

“That’s a whole different dynamic —
then it becomes not a vote to support the administration, but a vote to
go against the Department of Defense.”

Now after assuring advocates repeal of DADT would in fact be reflected in
the budget, Administration officials are now are saying its absence in the FY 2011 budget package is inconsequential.  On a conference call, OMB Deputy Director Rob Nabors told Dayen that DADT “does not have a
budgetary impact,” and is therefore not addressed.  But, Nabors added, "he didn’t want gay rights
advocates to read anything into the issue."

But research indicates there is in fact a budgetary effect.  Dayen cites a University
of California study
showing that discharging gay service members
cost the government $363 million dollars over a ten year period from

If it isn’t in the budget, does the Administration really intend to push for it?

And will the Administration’s efforts on DADT be relegated to the dreaded "commission?" 

"It appears," writes John Aravosis of America’s Blog, "that Secretary Gates
is going to announce a special team of advisers at [today’s–February 2nd 2010] DADT
hearings in the Senate, and that team will take a good year or so to
think over all the really hard issues confronting us with the potential
repeal of DADT, such
as gay marriage

Aravosis continues:

Their review is expected to look at
several sensitive issues, including whether the military should extend
marriage and bereavement benefits to the partners of gay soldiers, said
the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But…as Aravosis points out, there is
no gay marriage at the federal level, and Defense of Marriage Act forbids the federal
government from providing marriage benefits.

So why is DOD even
bringing up gay marriage?

As a distraction, maybe?

Oh, and in the meantime, writes Aravosis:

They’re going to
implement the discriminatory policy in a more humane manner. 

but I don’t recall that being Barack Obama’s promise to my community.
To more humanely discriminate us against us. He promised to lift the
ban. He promised to get ENDA passed. He promised to repeal DOMA. And
none of those are currently being discussed. What is being discussed is
another study to add to the pile of studies we already have. What is
being discussed is a proposal to "change" DADT, rather than repeal it – just
as Joe and I have been predicting

If the Republicans take back the House in the fall, says Aravosis:

You can kiss the repeal of DADT, DOMA, and the
passage of ENDA goodbye for years to come. President Obama promised us.
He promised us again in the State of the Union. And now he has
apparently signed off on the Pentagon coming to the Hill and presenting
us with a stall tactic, while they promise to discriminate against us
slightly less in the coming years.

"There is no reason the White House can’t work with the
Congress to repeal the ban this year, and simply delay implementation of
the repeal until next year when the "study" is done," Aravosis states.

But if the White
House doesn’t get Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repealed this year, then gay and
lesbian Democrats, and our allies, need to make the White House, the
DNC, and OFA pay a steep price
for this betrayal
. And any of our gay rights groups who condone and
enable this betrayal, should be held just as accountable.

Sounds like a similar conversation to those I am hearing in other sectors of "the base."