Senators Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Isakson and Congressman Jack Kingston are opposed to the imminent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. All three elected officials voted not to repeal DADT. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the repeal today, overturning the 17-year old policy that bars gay men and women from serving openly in the military.
DADT was implemented by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Pentagon recently delivered its report, based on a survey of military service members, to Congress. The report concluded most military members do not believe allowing gays and lesbians to serve would compromise military effectiveness or cohesiveness. Only a relatively small number of service members assigned to combat arms units objected to DADT’s repeal. “Nearly 60 percent of the Marine Corps and Army
combat units, such as infantry and special operations, said in the survey they thought repealing the law would hurt their units’ ability to fight,” National Public Radio reported last Saturday.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen both released statements hailing DADT’s repeal.
“Once this legislation is signed into law by the President, the Department of Defense will immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change carefully and methodically, but purposefully,” Gates said in a Department of Defense press release. “This effort will be led by Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and himself a retired Marine Corps major general and infantry officer.
“The legislation provides that repeal will take effect once the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that implementation of the new policies and regulations written by the department are consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces,” he continued.
Gates said until such certification is complete, “the current law and policy will remain in effect.”
“I am pleased to see the Congress vote to repeal the law governing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Handling this through legislation preserves the military’s prerogative to implement change in a responsible, deliberate manner,” Mullen said. “More critically, it is the right thing to do. No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result.”
Chambliss spoke on the Senate floor last weekend, arguing against a repeal of DADT especially when the U.S. is still at war.
“This has nothing to do with the valiant service that gays and lesbians have provided to the United States of America - that’s a given,” he said. “We all agree with that. But what the Marine Corps and what the Army, as well as what the Air Force Chief said, is that this is not the time to repeal this. In the middle of a military conflict is not the time to repeal a policy that’s working, that has the potential for affecting morale and has the potential for affecting unit cohesiveness. And also most significantly in my mind, according to both Gen. Casey and Gen. Amos, it does have the potential for increasing the risk of harm and death to our men and women who are serving in combat today. If for no other reason, we ought not repeal this today. Should it be done at some point in time? Maybe so. But in the middle of a military conflict is not the time to do it.”
Kingston, in a telephone message to the Courier, said a repeal of DADT cannot be reconciled with Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] laws on the books in most states and will present a logistical challenge for the military.
“I don’t see how you can (repeal) it without allowing same sex partnership benefits … and how you would reconcile that with states’ laws against same sex marriages,” he said. “Overturning this would affect the DOMA laws around the states.”
Kingston added the repeal of DADT doesn’t adequately answer such questions as providing facilities for gay service members. “You have men, you have women; do you create a third set of facilities for these?” he asked.
Kingston said DADT works, saying between1994-2003 just .37 percent of discharges from the military were due to a service member’s admitted homosexuality. He added only 25 out of 200 countries allow gays to serve openly in the military.
“And the 10 largest militaries in the world ban homosexuals.”
The congressman said DADT’s repeal also would create a conflict of conscience for military chaplains, many of whom are Christian, he said.
“Military chaplains already give a greatly cleansed and watered down prayer whenever you’re at a military service,” Kingston said, likening the military’s practice of offering all-inclusive prayer to a Hallmark card “thought of the day.”
These chaplains would be hindered from speaking openly about their Christian convictions, the congressman said.
“The purpose of the military is not a social objective… as much as it is to fight and win wars,” Kingston said.