I've been reading the new study that just came out from the Palm Center at UCSB, entitled How to Repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell".
What many people probably believe, and what I believed until recently, is that since DADT was created by Congress, it would take an act of Congress to eliminate it. Such an act already exists, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, first introduced in 2005, although I think the Let the Gays Serve Their Country If They Want To, For God's Sake. Don't You Know We're At War Right Now?! Act might be a more appropriate name. In any case, as the study points out, many people in Congress don't want to do anything without consulting with military leaders first. Military leaders don't necessarily want to do anything either. Obama wants to do something but knows that it might be unpopular with many people. Basically, everyone is waiting for someone else to act.
But what I didn't realize until just now, is that Obama can effectively stop this ridiculous policy immediately if he wants to. He can tell the military to stop investigating whether people are gay. (In the recent case of Lt. Dan Choi, there wasn't much of an "investigation" -- he came out willingly on national television). This might be somewhat unpopular because it could come across as circumventing the laws that Congress has created, instead of getting them repealed via the appropriate channels.
But there is something else he can do, even for Lt. Choi, and the thousands of other soldiers who are already known to the military to be gay. According to a law passed after the Vietnam War, "the President may suspend any provision of law relating to promotion, retirement, or separation applicable to any member of the armed forces who the President determines is essential to the national security of the United States." (pg. 11 of the study) Typically, this is used to force people to stay on duty after their normal term of service ends. (The "stop loss" policy.) In this case, it would be used to keep someone in the military who actually wants to serve. This doesn't provide a long-term solution, but maybe after a few months of gays serving openly, if the sky doesn't fall and the world doesn't end, Congress will understand that this is the right thing to do.
Hm, wasn't I thinking almost this exact thought, a few months ago? Oh, right. "Now that gay couples actually have gotten married in this very state," I said, "surely people will see that these marriages had no effect on them, and will live and let live." Ugh.
Personally, I think it would be better if the change comes from Congress, but it's clear that the president needs to act quickly and assertively, either to get the Congress to step up, or to simply make it happen directly. Otherwise, we'll be stuck with this same dangerous, stupid, offensive policy for years and years. He needs to just be the guy that goes, "Okay. This is what we're doing."
Lt. Choi's new organization, Knights Out is asking everyone to call the White House today and "flood the switchboards" to ask the President to repeal this law. They offer a sample script but if you can just speak honestly about your opinion of this policy, I think that would send a stronger message. If you've read this far, I'd say you're probably well-informed enough to do that. 202-456-1111. Please call and express your support for ending this ban. This is not a "gay issue," this is a "let's treat everyone equally" issue.
I'll finish up this post with a quick quote I found in the study, and to keep this blog from getting too serious, a video from The Onion.
“Equal and just treatment of all personnel exerts direct and favorable influence on morale, discipline, and command authority. Since these key factors contribute to mission effectiveness, efforts to ensure equal treatment are directly related to the primary mission.”
(Department of the Army. (1973). Improving race relations in the Army: Handbook for leaders. Washington, DC (Pamphlet Number 600-16), page 2.
'Gays Too Precious To Risk In Combat,' Says General