Most Military Chiefs Support ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal at Senate Hearing
The Senate Armed Services Committee has been holding hearings on “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) on Thursday and Friday. The majority of U.S. military chiefs voiced their support Friday for repeal of the 1993 law prohibits openly gay or lesbian Americans from serving in the military. (Watch the proceedings live online through 2 p.m. Eastern time Friday via C-SPAN3.)
The hearings follow the release of the Pentagon's long-anticipated report on implementing repeal of DADT. Only one member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has voiced his opposition. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. John Amos said today he feared any sort of “sexual competition” might disrupt unit cohesion among Marine Corps units. As a whole, 70 percent of survey respondents said repeal would have either a positive effect or no effect at all. A run-down of service chiefs’ statements and positions on DADT repeal has been compiled by ThinkProgress’ Igor Volsky.
The Pentagon’s survey found 60 percent of Marine respondents thought DADT repeal would have a negative effect on the military. Seventy-five percent of Marines surveyed overall had never served with a gay or lesbian servicemember, and 80 percent of Marine combat units said they’d never served with a gay or lesbian person.
“We have less experience with this; that’s intuitive,” Amos told members of the Senate committee Friday morning. “My concerns are those units involved in combat right now. That’s the cohesion that concerns me the most.”
Despite Amos’ concerns and his Marines’ responses, however, he joined each of the Joint Chiefs in pledged to “faithfully implement” a repeal if passed by Congress.
Members of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee seemed to lean toward a repeal of DADT. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) both noted the inevitability of a change in military policy and law.
“I think it comes down to what has been repeated here time and time again by all of you, that in terms of policy, a change is coming,” Reed said.
Wicker noted there “seems to be a resignation that this is going to happen; that it’s just a matter of timing.”
Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator discharged under DADT, said in a release that today hearing should “settle the debate” on repeal.
“The American people want this law repealed, the Defense Department's leadership support its repeal, and the Service Chiefs all say they can make repeal work," said Nicholson, who is attending the Senate hearings today. "Now is time for the Senate to immediately reconsider the defense authorization bill under a fair and reasonable process. As with the military, if the Senate leadership is committed to doing this, it can certainly still happen."
Anti-gay organizations have said the Pentagon’s study on DADT repeal failed to ask “the right question.” They say military leaders would have been better served asking troops if DADT should be repealed. Instead, the study focused on how to implement repeal.
Matt Comer is a staff writer for Campus Progress.