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With DADT repealed, now comes the wait
Advocates push for swift implementation; until then, GIs should stay in closet
Washington, D.C.--“It was a great five-star general and president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said, ‘Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness and consideration, and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace,’ ” Vice President Joseph Biden said during President Obama’s signing ceremony for the repeal of the military’s gay ban on December 22.
The repeal’s passage faced an uphill battle; it was held hostage by Republican senators who refused to act on any bills unless an extension of Bush administration tax cuts were passed, and even after that, Sen. John McCain threatened to filibuster it. However, moderate Republicans crossed party lines to vote for cloture and passage of the bill, including Sen. George Voinovich, who is retiring. The final Senate vote was 65-31.
The repeal measure calls for Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Michael Mullen to certify that ending the policy will not harm the military before it takes effect, after an additional 60-day delay.
The implementation process could take up to a year, although Obama promised faster action.
“I have spoken to every one of the service chiefs and they are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently. We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done,” Obama said at the signing.
LGBT advocates are also pressing for a faster timeline, noting that the policy only took 40 days to put into place back in 1993.
The Palm Center, a University of California, Santa Barbara think tank on gender, sexuality and the military, is one of those organizations.
“We expect the Pentagon to shortly announce its demand for a lengthy period of training and education to prepare the troops for open gay service, possibly lasting through much of 2011, before repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ can be certified,” director Aaron Belkin said in a statement.
“The Palm Center will imminently release a study showing that this demand is not based on actual military needs,” he continued. “In fact, the Pentagon has the capacity to train the forces immediately, within a matter of weeks. The RAND Corporation’s research has found that the way to minimize any disruption from the implementation of open gay service is to proceed quickly and with strong leadership.”
“Only three steps are needed to assure a smooth and quick transition to open gay service: an immediate executive order from President Obama suspending all discharges; a few weeks to put the new regulations in place; and following this, immediate certification to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ ”
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network warned that the policy remains in place and service members can be discharged for being gay until this happens.
“The bottom line: For now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously closeted,” said SLDN director Aubrey Sarvis.
The Pentagon’s own report notes that other countries that have opened their militaries to open gay and lesbian service “undertook what is best described as a minimalist approach.”
The report also found that those countries had little to no problems opening service. Those include close American allies Canada, the United Kingdom and Israel, among many others.
The Pentagon points out, however, that the issue of training troops that are currently out in the field in combat situations is a thorny one, and it has yet to be determined whether all service members must undergo training.
Obama has pushed for repeal since his time on the campaign trail, and was supported once in office both by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, and Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
During the signing ceremony, Obama told those assembled a story going back to World War II.
“Sixty-six years ago, in the dense, snow-covered forests of Western Europe, Allied forces were beating back a massive assault in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. And in the final days of fighting, a regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire. The men were traveling along a narrow trail. They were exposed and they were vulnerable. Hundreds of soldiers were cut down by the enemy,” he began.
“And during the firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine. And dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead. But one soldier, a friend, turned back, and with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground,” Obama continued.
“For the rest of his years, Lloyd credited this soldier, this friend, named Andy Lee, with saving his life, knowing he would never have made it out alone. It was a full four decades after the war, when the two friends reunited in their golden years, that Lloyd learned that the man who saved his life, his friend Andy, was gay. He had no idea. And he didn’t much care. Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what had kept him alive, what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life,” he posited. “It was his friend.”
Corwin’s son was present at the signing ceremony, drawing applause from the rest of the audience.
Obama also quoted Admiral Mullen at the signing.
“Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.”
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