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Repeal of DADT to be considered in next Congress

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell needs to die, and Massachusetts Rep. Marty Meehan plans to hold congressional hearings (he’s likely to serve as chair) to discuss its repeal.

This was not possible when the GOP was in control of the House, when homophobe Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA), was chair of the House Armed Services Committee — he bottled the bill up. (Boston.com):

“We will have hearings, and then we can have an honest dialogue with members of Congress,” Meehan said.

“I believe, and have always believed, that once people see the facts, it will become clear that this is a policy that actually hurts national security and hurts the military.”

Meehan said the incoming Armed Services Committee chairman, Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, is considering him to lead the new subcommittee on oversight. Meehan would bring the issue before his subcommittee and could press for the full committee to examine it as well.

Meehan’s proposed change was backed yesterday by Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat who is openly gay.

It will be interesting to hear Frank speak on this topic (he’s here in Houston at the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute’s International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference).

The naysayers are already expecting a brawl and bigotry over this, despite the desperate condition the military forces are in regarding recruiting, retention, and loss of specialists who are canned because of DADT. The old hoary arguments will surface again.

Republicans, some Democrats, and the Pentagon are likely to fight Meehan’s plan. They argue that “don’t ask, don’t tell” protects morale and maintains the cohesion of military units.

Democrats would be better off shelving the issue until legislative hearings on broader military personnel issues, such as expansion of the recruitment field and retention of soldiers, said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense specialist at the liberal Brookings Institution.

“You don’t want it to be ‘Democrats against the military,’ ” O’Hanlon said. “People don’t like the military being the laboratory for these sort of things. This is not the same kind of civil rights issue as racial integration.

Oh it isn’t? And what, pray tell, are the differences that will affect the ability of our military to use its best and brightest servicemembers? The public is ready for change.

According to SLDN, 4 out of 5 Americans support gays serving openly in the military. There are Republicans and Democrats on board for the repeal of DADT — 123 members of Congress have co-sponsored the Military Readiness Enhancement Act.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding