November 15, 2010
Two influential senators who want repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy have called on the Pentagon to accelerate the release of a report examining the effects of such a sweeping change, and how it can be implemented.
On Monday, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, sent a letter (viewable here) to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, urging him to make the highly-anticipated report public “as soon as possible” to improve the chances that a conditional repeal of the ban on gays in the military – currently attached to a must-pass defense authorization bill – will become law before the clock runs out on the lame-duck session next month.
“Some of our colleagues in the Senate share our view about the importance of passing a defense bill but they are awaiting release of the working group’s report before agreeing to begin debate on the bill,” they wrote. The report, they continue, “will help inform their understanding and alleviate some concerns they may have…. Given the limited amount of time remaining in the 111th Congress, the soonest possible release of the working group’s report could therefore be instrumental in allowing the defense bill to move forward.”
President Barack Obama has vowed that “don’t ask” will be repealed on his watch, but that only Congress has the power to do it.
Despite doubts that Congress lacks the time – and the political will – to address the issue, “I’m not giving up on us doing a repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ during the lame-duck session,” Lieberman said Monday on MSNBC. “To make that possible, I hope that the Defense Department can find a way to issue this report that they’ve got pretty much done, but going through clearance now, as quickly as possible and certainly before December 1st.”
Neither the Pentagon nor the White House had immediate comment.
On Friday, Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, urged the Pentagon to release the report immediately, noting that parts of the report have already been leaked to reporters. But a spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the report would be released, as planned, sometime in early December.
In a related development, 13 veterans urging immediate repeal of “don’t ask” were arrested Monday after chaining themselves to the White House fence, according to a Park Police spokesman and a statement from the group that organized the protest, GetEqual. Among them were Army National Guard Lt. Dan Choi and four other pro-repeal military veterans who were arrested in a similar protest in March.