Army Sec. John McHugh Won’t Enforce DADT. So Gay Soldiers Are, Uh, Free to Come Out? (No)

Army Sec. John McHugh is doing what Barack Obama and the Department of Justice will not: Refusing to defend or maintain Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for the simple reason that it’s a piece of garbage that hurts America’s safety. (Updated below.)

Speaking Wednesday at a breakfast with reporters, McHugh, the Republican former congressman, who opted not to declare a position on DADT during his confirmation process, argued it would be “counterproductive [… to] take disciplinary action against someone who spoke with me openly and honestly.”

Oh yeah? Might we point your attention right here? ‘Cause he needs your help.

(Critics of McHugh, meanwhile, will point out that he’s the civilian Army leader and doesn’t carry any gold on his breast pocket.)

Should we assume McHugh consulted with Pentagon brass and the White House before announcing his position? If so, then it arrives with Obama’s blessing. But let’s not mistake a decision not to enforce a discriminatory law as the same as repealing it. McHugh’s decision is honorable. And it should not allow anyone to believe pressure for a full repeal, then, is somehow dwindling.

UPDATE: Worth clarifying. It seems like McHugh is indicating he won’t pursue investigations against gay soldiers he or his office talks to personally, as part of the research project into repealing DADT. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s saying all gay soldiers who come out will be granted immunity.

UPDATE 2: McHugh did not just self-issue a moratorium. He’s released this statement clarifying the situation. It goes like this: Not only is there no stop-gap measure in place, McHugh himself says gay soldiers who speak to him openly are not protected from DADT dismissals. Which is a grand way of encouraging a whopping zero soldiers to speak to Pentagon and military leaders about this repeal “study” thing that’s going on.

Yesterday, in response to a series of questions from reporters regarding “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, I made several statements that require further comment.

First, while President Obama has asked Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, it is and remains the law of the land. As I have testified before Congress and Secretary Gates has made clear, the Department of the Defense will continue to apply the law, as we are obligated to do.

Second, I was incorrect when I stated that Secretary Gates had placed a moratorium on discharges of homosexual service-members. There is no moratorium of the law and neither Secretary Gates nor I would support one. Further, the recent changes to implementing regulations authorized by Secretary Gates, which I support, apply the law in a fairer and more appropriate manner; they do not in any way create a moratorium of the law.

Third, with regard to the three soldiers who shared their views and thoughts with me on “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, I might better have counseled them that statements about their sexual orientation could not be treated as confidential and could result in their separation under the law. Because of the informal and random manner in which these engagements occurred, I am unable to identify these soldiers and I am not in a position to formally pursue the matter.

Secretary Gates has committed to soliciting the views of men and women in uniform across the military, including those who are gay and lesbian, within the parameters of the review process he has established. The intra-department, intra-service working group, lead by Jeh Johnson, general counsel of the Department of Defense, and Gen. Carter Ham, commander, U.S. Army Europe, is working to determine the most effective and most comprehensive way to do this. The working group is likely to utilize a third party from outside of the department to solicit these views so soldiers can speak candidly and without fear of separation. I urge every soldier to share his or her views and suggestions on this important issue through this channel. This is the appropriate way to do so.

I strongly support the deliberative process that Secretary Gates has established to review this important issue. Until Congress repeals “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, it remains the law of the land and the Department of the Army and I will fulfill our obligation to uphold it.