Today the Senate voted, 63-33, to end the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. I served as a Naval Officer for eleven years, and saw firsthand the impact of DADT on men and women who pledged to serve, and potentially give their life, for their country, and yet were forced to lie about who they were. One of the most important values of the U.S. Military is integrity; DADT was the antithesis of integrity as a policy. All we heard from Republicans like John McCain in days leading up to the vote was how they threatened to withhold support of the New Start Treaty with Russia, even in the face of overwhelming support for ending DADT. This is yet another victory for the President, a historic accomplishment akin to the end of segregation in the military.
Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 234-194 to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the 1993 law that prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The Senate Armed Services comittee voted 16-12 to send a similar bill to the floor of the Senate. Olympia Snowe, one of the few moderate Republicans remaining alive, was the only Republican to support the bill in committee. John McCain, ex-Maverick of Arizona, made his views on the bill clear:
“I think it’s really going to be very harmful to the morale and effectiveness of our military.”
Of course, while campaigning for the Presidency, McCain pledged he would listen to the Joint Chiefs of Staff; once they were ready for change, he would support repeal. Admiral Mullen, the Chairman, gave a stirring statement of support for repeal. Mullen does not underestimate the ability of today’s military to adapt to new policy. From my experience as a Naval Officer, DADT was a disaster; I knew people who were personally affected by it, and without question it reduces our readiness. However, McCain came of age in a different America. He cannot imagine a military allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. Well, the Navy is finally going to allow women on Submarines, another restriction that was long defended because of ‘readiness.’ There was never going to be an easy time to make that change, and there is never going to be an easy time to repeal DADT.
The bill would not go into immediate effect, but after an ongoing policy study is completed, and after the Pentagon and the White House approve the new policy; basically, sometime next year. Republicans want to wait, but what they want to wait for is not the completion of the study, but rather the fall election, when they will pick up a few Senate seats.