Howard Dean, the former chairman of the
Democratic National Committee, is calling on President Barrack Obama
to take action on “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” repeal this year. The
1993 law prescribes discharge as the remedy for gay troops who do not
remain celibate or closeted.
“Americans clearly understand that if
someone is brave enough to take a bullet for the USA, then they
should have the same equal rights guaranteed to every American under
the law – whether they are serving in the military, or when they
come home,” Dean wrote in an open letter to the president.
In the letter, released Saturday, Dean
says he is in agreement with gay rights advocates who are concerned
that the Department of Defense could “indefinitely delay the
possibility of moving forward with the repeal of DADT until the
Pentagon completes a review of the policy.”
Obama promised he would back repeal of
the policy this year during his first State of the Union address in
January. The president has since reversed course, saying he supports
holding off on repeal until after the Pentagon study is complete.
The study is due in December.
“While I understand the need to
research how repealing DADT will affect members of the military, the
law can still be repealed with an implementation timeline this year,”
Last week, Defense Secretary Robert
Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen
wrote to the House Armed Services Committee and urged its chairman,
Missouri Representative Ike Skelton, to hold off on repeal until
their study is complete.
“Our military must be afforded the
opportunity to inform us of their concerns, insights and suggestions
if we are to carry out this change successfully,” Gates and Mullen
The letter was a response to a request
from Skelton, who does not support repeal of the gay ban.
Gay groups have accused the president
of punting repeal until 2013.
“The White House knows that the
political environment will become more challenging over time,” Dr.
Aaron Belkin, director of the
Palm Center, a group that supports repeal, and Associate
Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa
Barbara, said. “If repeal doesn't happen this calendar year, it is
unlikely to pass until after the next presidential election.”
“The time to end 'Don't Ask, Don't
Tell' is now,” Dean writes. “I urge you to take immediate action
to insure that Congress includes the repeal of DADT – with an
implementation timeline – in the Defense Authorization bill
currently under consideration.”
The defense budget has long been
considered the best bet for repeal language, but the window to act is
closing quickly. Markups for the 2011 defense authorization bill on
both sides of Congress are expected to take place within the next 3
weeks. A House vote may come as early as May 24.
Passage of repeal in the Senate –
even when tucked inside the defense budget – remains a daunting
task during an election year. Repeal advocates worry that without
the president's support they'll fall short.
In addition to writing to the
also participated in a “Don't Ask” rally last Sunday where 6
activists were arrested after they handcuffed themselves to the
White House gate.