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Lobbying Against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

DADT Blog Post #3

For Blog #1, click here
For Blog #2, click here
For Blog #4, click here

To say that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a hot topic in today’s politics would be an understatement.  It seems that every time you log onto the New York Times, or CNN an article related to the policy is front page news.  Whether it’s the recent filibuster, the current injunction, or the lame-duck session push, DADT is on everyone’s mind.  According to a recent Washington Post survey, the American public’s disagreement with the policy has drastically increased over the last 17 years.  When the policy was first enacted, 44% of Americans were against it.  Now, that number has risen to 75%.  Politicians are taking notice.  In fact, earlier this year, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 with an amendment allowing for the repeal of DADT, but in the Senate, Democrats have failed in the face of Republican opposition.  

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Public opinion on DADT repeal (Religioustolerance.org)

While most Republicans are not necessarily against the repeal, all are waiting for the Pentagon’s release of its report on the effects that a repeal would have on the military.  The report is scheduled to come out December 1st, but parts have already been leaked.  The survey of hundreds of thousands of military personnel and families concluded that allowing homosexuals to serve openly would not hurt military readiness, a fear that many hold.  These findings have the potential to sway at least 10 senators, including moderate Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.  Both hope for a more open debate after the report is released.

The biggest hurtle, by far, is Senator John McCain, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.  He insisted that a study was needed before he could approve of the bill.  Now that the study has been completed, he is still stalling, stating "Once we get this study, we need to have hearings. And we need to examine it. And we need to look at whether it's the kind of study that we wanted.”  It appears that McCain will do everything in his power to hold off the vote until after the lame-duck session ends.  With his position in the committee, this is not an impossible feat.

However, despite his opposition, there are major allies.  Secretary of Defense Gates recently expressed that he would like to see DADT repealed by the end of the year, which was a very bold statement, as it went against the views of many senior commanders.  Despite recent inconsistencies, President Obama still supports repeal, even calling Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) last Wednesday to reinforce his stance and demand a vote in the coming weeks.The urgency is felt by all parties involved. Currently Democrats hold 57 seats, which will fall to 53 in January.  Since cloture has already failed once with the larger majority (the September 21st vote was 56-43), it will be near impossible to convince at least 7 Republicans to change their vote after the lame-duck session.  For this reason, Sen. Carl Levin plans to hold a hearing in the Armed Services Committee in early December.  Though the date is not yet set, a rapid hearing is imperative to the success of a DADT repeal.

Two national lobbyist groups are heavily involved in this process.  The Human Rights Campaign, which works to eliminate discrimination against the LGBT community, and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization focused solely on DADT, are constantly pressuring the Senate.  They encourage citizens to call, write and visit their senators to demand repeal.

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Advertisement on HRC.org

Locally, Equality Forum, based in Philadelphia, “undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents the largest annual national and international GLBT civil rights forum,” among other goals.  They host events throughout the area and while not currently involved with DADT, they would not be opposed to it.  Given their local and national presence, they would be a great ally in increasing public outcry for repeal.  This demand is needed to encourage Pennsylvania’s senators Specter and Casey to not only vote “aye,” but to proactively push for a vote.