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July 31, 2009

 

‘Don’t ask’ pause dropped, but policy will get hearing

Washington, D.C.--Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York opted against introducing an amendment to a defense spending bill that would place an 18-month moratorium on “don’t ask, don’t tell” discharges.

Gillibrand, who was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton when she became secretary of state, had the backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

However, she would not have the 60 votes necessary for cloture, closing debate on an amendment.

“She was working for about a week to assess support among her colleagues for the measure,” spokesman Matt Canter told the Washington Blade. “It does not appear that we’re going to have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. So she’s not going to pursue the moratorium amendment at this time.”

The defense bill passed July 23 with a rider attached that would add hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity to existing federal law. A similar measure passed the House in April.

Amendments to the Senate version o the hate crime measure will be reconciled with the House version in a conference committee next month, with final votes likely in September.

Legislation to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” outright is being sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, an Iraq War veteran, in the House and will be introduced in the Senate by Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Gillibrand’s decision, however, resulted in one advance in the effort to halt discharges of gay and lesbian military personnel.

She told news website Daily Beast that she secured a commitment for the issue to be taken up in fall hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It will be the first time since 1993 that the issue will be formally examined.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the chairman of the committee, confirmed plans for hearings.

Talking to syndicated lesbian columnist Deb Price, he said, “I’d like to see where the military is. For this to be effective and successful, it’s got to have some support inside of the military as well as leaders.”

“In order for it to be effective and succeed, it’s going to have at least some institutional support,” he noted.

Levin pointed to younger personnel, who were less concerned about the sexual orientation of their fellow servicemembers.

“I hear from some of the younger guys in the military that it’s not a major concern for them, providing it’s done thoughtfully and not just suddenly decided upon without some real thinking through the best way to phase it in, or to do it, either one,” he concluded.

Many military personnel have served with openly gay soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan--Canada, Australia, Israel and many of America’s European allies allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in their militaries, and all of have been involved in those conflicts.

Their armed forces also undermine the argument that allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military would weaken unit cohesion and lower morale.

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