“Deal” Reached on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
President Obama has experienced conflict with some LGBT rights advocates who contend that he has moved sluggishly on the issue of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. DADT requires the discharge of known “homosexuals” from the military.
During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to repeal the ban, and since his election, social movement organizations have pushed him on this issue. In order to appease liberal advocates of LGBT rights, President Obama first promised that he would start looking into the issue of lifting the ban last year. Earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced a formal “study” of the impact of lifting the ban. The results of the study are due in December.
Representative Patrick Murphy and Senator Lieberman, however, introduced bills to repeal DADT. These bills conflict with the Obama’s “measured” approach. Yesterday, several media outlets reported that Obama reached a compromise with Murphy, Lieberman and LGBT rights organizations. Under the deal, Murphy and Lieberman would amend their bills to provide that DADT would remain the law until such time that the Defense Department completes its review, determines that a repeal of DADT will not impact military readiness or recruitment, and promulgates regulations on the issue.
This deal seems gradually to shift discretion of this issue of service by gays and lesbians to the Defense Department. Media, however, have already begun reporting that Congress is poised to repeal DADT, which implies that the repeal will take place immediately and that the Defense Department must accept gay and lesbian service members on nondiscriminatory terms. This, however, is not true.
The politics behind this deal provide something for all of the major players. Despite the fact that their bills will not immediately repeal DADT, Murphy and Lieberman can get points from liberal Democratic voters ahead of the midterm elections (Lieberman probably needs this more than Patrick). Because the proposal would delay the repeal, however, no tangible change regarding DADT will occur until December at the earliest. This could allow moderates to support the measure as well. Obama’s slower path remains remains intact, but he gets to tell progressives that he has moved forward on this campaign promise. Finally, mainstream social movement organizations can celebrate the fruits of their advocacy and promote the results (however moderate) as a mobilization strategy.