Tomorrow will mark the first Congressional hearing to evaluate the continued viability of the U.S. military "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy since its inception in 1993.
Much has changed in the way of public opinion over the past fifteen years. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) no longer appears to reflect the attitude of the majority of American citizens.
In sequential polls (1993, 2001, 2008), conducted jointly by The Washington Post and ABC News, participants were asked, "Do you think homosexuals who do publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military or not?" In 1993 only 44% of those polled answered affirmatively. The number rose to 62% in 2001 and has continued to rise to a decisive 75% in the most recent poll conducted last week.
In the meantime, recruitment and retention demands have increased markedly over the past several years as our military leaders strive to fulfill the personnel requirements created by our current overseas campaigns. Honorable, qualified gay and lesbian servicemen and women are discharged daily for no reason other than their sexual orientation, while other weary soldiers’ tours are extended and they are recycled to combat zones again and again.
In light of these developments, DADT has garnered a second look by members of Congress.
The Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee will consider arguments both for and against the policy at 2 PM tomorrow in a hearing which will be open to the public. (The hearing will be held in room 2118 of the Rayburn House Office Building on Independence Avenue in downtown DC. Those who wish to attend are encouraged to arrive early and be prepared to wait.)
Tomorrow's hearing is the first stage in response to a bill, H.R. 1246 or the “Military Readiness Enhancement Act,” introduced last February by Senator Marty Meehan (D-MA). The bill, if passed as is, would replace the DADT policy with one of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Representatives from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) will be present to offer statements in support of the bill. Although it is unlikely that a repeal of DADT will occur during the current administration, it is quite feasible in the near future depending on which of our current Presidential candidates is successful this November.
How do the candidates feel about this issue?
Senator John McCain believes that we should maintain the status quo.
He was quoted recently by the New York Times as saying, "Generally, overall, it’s working… I think it’s logical to leave this issue alone. I really do.”
Senator Barrack Obama has stated repeatedly that he would like to see DADT repealed.
In a statement released last month in correlation with annual Pride celebrations around the country, Obama is quoted as saying, “Let’s repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and demonstrate that the most effective and professional military in the world is open to all Americans who are ready and willing to serve our country.”