Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mullen and Gates Announce Study on Effects of DADT Repeal

What a day it was on Capital Hill today as Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Robert Gates faced the Senate Armed Services Committee to present the president's case for repealing Don't ask, Don't tell. Reaction to the two fell predictably along party lines, with Democrats expressing support for the repeal and Republicans against.

The two highly decorated career servicemen announced that the Pentagon would be launching a study of what the effects of ending DADT would have on military preparedness, effectiveness, morale and a laundry list of other issues including the need for separate housing and bathrooms and what benefits, if any, would be given to the partners of gay and lesbian service members. The study could take up to a year to complete.

Mullen told the committee, “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

Secretary Gates addressed the question of a stop loss or moratorium on further discharges under DADT saying that current law would not support either of those measures.

Gates and Mullen both acknowledged that other studies have been done in the past that showed no negative impact on gays serving openly, but that the Pentagon had never conducted one of its own. 

Senator John McCain took issue with the idea that repeal was being viewed as a given and that this was not going to be a study of whether or not the ban on openly gay and lesbian military personnel should be abolished. Since his bungled bid for the White House, McCain defended Don't ask, Don't tell saying the policy was working just fine and he repeated his position today.

However, it was only four years ago that McCain told Hardball's Chris Matthews in a 2006 interview, "The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, Senator, we ought to change the policy, then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility to."

Uh... excuse me?... Senator McCain? That day is today.

But of course it's never that easy in politics. McCain and his cronies on the right gave every indication that repeal was anything but a done deal. Both sides agreed that repeal would require congressional approval and by the looks of things at the hearing, the party of "No!" is going to fight tooth and nail with their last homophobic breaths.

In an interesting opinion from Bizarro World, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) told Gates and Mullens, "I think the live and let live policy is not a bad policy to adhere to and that's what we have in place in the military right now with Don't ask, Don't tell." (WTF?!) Chambliss rambled on about how military life is "fundamentally different from civilian life" and continued with his homophobic justification for the discriminatory policy.

Senator Mark Udall, (D-Co.) said that he doesn't think a year is necessary and added that he wants to see a road map in the study that includes finality in the repeal of DADT.

This promises to be a very long, interesting, frustrating, roller coaster of a year for LGBT rights, but at least the ball is finally in play. Find a comfy seat and settle in. We're gonna be here for a while.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reviews some of the highlights of the hearing, including John McCain's "Grumpy Old Man" moments and backing away from his own words.

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