Gay groups are cheering Wednesday's
Senate introduction of a bill that would repeal “don't ask, don't
tell,” the military policy that bans open gay service.
Independent Connecticut Senator Joseph
Lieberman is the lead sponsor of the measure titled the Military
Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010.
“Today Senator Lieberman made
history,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers
Legal Defense Network, a group that lobbies for repeal of the
law, said in a statement. “We applaud the Senator's unwavering
commitment to a strong national defense and civil rights.”
Signed into law by President Clinton,
the 1993 law prescribes discharge for gay and lesbian service members
who do not remain closeted or celibate.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human
Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights advocate, called
introduction of the bill “bold” and “patriotic,” adding that
Lieberman's support in the Senate was “critical to achieving repeal
Michigan Senator Carl Levin, chairman
of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the bill's likely
destination, cosponsored the measure. Other early cosponsors include
Democratic Senators Mark Udall of Colorado, Kirsten Gillibrand of New
York, Roland Burris of Illinois, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Barbara
Boxer of California, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Patrick Leahy of Vermont,
Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Dianne
Feinstein of California and Al Franken of Minnesota.
“In a time of two wars, any policy
that leads to the discharge of talented and capable troops threatens
our national security and wastes resources,” Senator Udall said in
op-ed Wednesday. “That's exactly what 'don't ask, don't tell'
has been doing for 17 years. And that's why, as a member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee and original cosponsor of this bill,
I'm proud to be leading the charge to finally – and fully –
repeal this unfair and outmoded law.”
A House version of the bill was
introduced last year and has attracted 189 cosponsors. Pennsylvania
Representative Patrick Murphy, a Democrat, took over sponsorship of
the measure after California Representative Ellen Tauscher accepted
an appointment in the Obama administration.
The Pentagon's top brass, including
Defense Secretary Roberts Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of
the Joint Chiefs, have publicly announced they support President
Obama's pledge to end the policy, but service chiefs from the various
armed forces have testified against repeal or have expressed
trepidation. Secretary Gates has called for a study on the issue.
“It's full steam ahead for
legislative repeal this year,” Sarvis said. “Congress must do
its job and repeal DADT this year while the Department of Defense
conducts its study over the coming year. SLDN will be squarely
focused on the handful of Democratic and Republican senators on the
Senate Armed Services Committee, who will determine whether repeal is
done this year, or not.”
The committee's ranking Republican is
Arizona Senator John McCain, who has become the Republican face of
opposition to repeal.
Recent polling shows a majority of
Americans agree the ban is discriminatory and should be repealed.
gay, lesbian and bisexual people are currently serving in the Armed
Forces, about 2.2% of all military personnel, a recent UCLA study
found. The military has spent up to $500 million implementing the
Lawmakers are unlikely to attempt
passage of a stand-alone version of the bill in the Senate. Instead,
they have alluded to a plan that would tuck the legislation in next
year's defense authorization bill. Proponents hope the strategy will
head off a Republican-led filibuster.