Dems Say It’ll Be Two Years Before They Take Up ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

If you’re expecting a quick repeal of Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell, the controversial policy that’s been used to dismiss thousands of American servicemen and women simply for being gay, don’t hold your breath; though if you ask Congressional Democrats, including Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Tammy Baldwin, it’ll be worth the wait.

Roll Call reports today that:

“Key Democrats — even openly gay lawmakers — are quietly conceding to letting another two years go by before trying to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the controversial 1993 law banning openly gay people from serving in the military. Most fear that moving too quickly on such a divisive issue could backfire, and most would rather tread lightly, at least in the early months of President-elect Barack Obama‘s administration.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both have said the time is right to revisit the policy that Powell, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, helped implement. But Pelosi, for one, refused to say whether she planned to bring legislation to the floor next year to overturn the law…

Democratic lawmakers regularly beg off questions about the contentious policy, arguing that other issues are far more important — such as winding down the war in Iraq or bolstering the economy. They also remember the political uproar when then-President Bill Clinton used the beginning of his presidency to try to overturn an outright ban on gays serving in the military. That effort tied his administration in knots in his first months in office, and Democrats fear a repeat performance.”

The Human Rights Campaign supports the slow and steady approach and spokesperson Brad Luna says there’s consensus in the gay community that there needs to be a “strategy behind how this could be repealed.”

Which is true, even if there’s disagreement over which strategy should be used. In fact, at least one member of Congress wants to see Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell repealed in ’09:

Last year, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and picked up 149 co-sponsors. Although patience seems to be the consensus among gay activists and many Democrats, Tauscher told CNN in November that she expected Congress to tackle the issue in 2009.

“The key here is to get bills that pass the House and the Senate, that we can get to President-elect Obama to sign, and I think that we can do that, certainly, the first year of the administration,” Tauscher said.

So, which strategy is best? Flanking in from the side via committees and panels or storming up the center with a timetable for repeal? Or do we proceed on multiple fronts?

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  • rigso

    I wish it would happen right away but it could be smart to wait until Iraq war is largely over…

  • Bob

    Haven’t we waited long enough?

  • Paul

    I find it unacceptable to wait to over turn this hideous law. There are changes happening in the underground anyway. I would not be surprised to see a grassroots effort from inside the military of Gay and Lesbian Servicemembers who will not wait and will come out despite the law.

    With an upcoming movie by a former Submarine CO (USNA Alumni) and the recent book by Riechen, more and more will become comfortable speaking out and being honest and open. I have been thoroughly impressed by the leadership of former officers to stand up and be heard.

    As a former submarine sailor, my Chief of the Boat encouraged me to stay in the military. He didn’t know about me and it took all I had to turn down his offer to stay. My heart wanted to but my mind knew I would not be able to live another 10 years the way I lived my first 10 years; hiding and lying constantly. Really, when you stop to think about it…we are serving there next to those men and women who the media paints as not being able to handle gay men and women coming out; does silence really make it more comfortable? NO. The men and women of our military, for the most part, could probably care less. As long as we do our jobs, carry our weigh, and protect our country – I am sure most of them will understand. Are there a few who will resist – well sure, isn’t that the case with everything?

    Besides what are we talking about anyway? Allowing Servicemembers the right to say, “I have a boyfriend? I have a girlfriend? whom I love?” Are we so stuck up on this issues that we are not willing to allow another human being to be themselves? As long as someones personal space is not involuntarily violated, then let us be. Especially when we are giving our lives for our country?!

    This is absurd and waiting an additional two years, when you have a President, congress, and military leaders all saying do away with it? I would give anything to be back on my Submarine serving because even though it would mean the end of my career, I would definitely come out at this point. They wouldn’t kick us all out – not right now.

    If more time is spent waiting to repeal – the men and women who are serving shouldn’t wait any longer. Leaders! Do the right thing and repeal this law within the first 100 days.

  • Tom in Houston

    it looks like we need some new “leaders” that will actually push for legislation.

    This is how I predict HRC’s plan is gonna come down.

    HRC will kill ENDA if it doesn’t include Transgendered. If Trans ENDA doesn’t pass, we won’t have anything.

    HRC will go along to get along on DADT repeal till after the 2010 elections. The Dems will lose seats in the 2010 elections and then will say, “we need to move to the center”. No DADT repeal will take place after 2010.

    HRC will not push hard for DOMA repeal. Or at best, they will issue a ‘press release’. You see, HRC can’t do anything like TV advertising outside of DC. They will, however, continue to raise money to pay for their bloated staff and their hideously expensive building.

    HRC will ignore the PPIA. Or maybe, at most, they will issue a ‘press release’. They seem really good at issuing completely ignored, hideously ineffective press releases and webads.

    HRC will continue to ignore Obama’s apparent refusal to appoint Gay men and Lesbians to high offices in his administration. While he continues to highlight bigots. I can get three fifth level appointees and 3 ambassadors from the Republicans. I’d like to see qualified Gay men and Lesbians in HIGH (Senate confirmations) positions such as FEDERAL JUDGES, US Prosecutors, Agency heads. Policy making positions. Not appointing one Gay man to an HIV advisory committee with no policy making authority.

    HRC will continue to ignore companies that discriminate against Gays and Lesbians that recruit at Universties where Gays in committed relationships cannot be students.

    And HRC will most likely mismanage HCPA (Matt Shepard Act) so badly that it wont pass.

    No ENDA, no PPIA, no DADT repeal, before 2010 and I think our job will be to rip the Democratic party to shreds. Contentious primaries all over the map. Third party challenges. Campaigns to depress turnout or undervote.

    We’re being played for fools. And HRC is leading the charge to keep us from our goals by agreeing. If not now, when? When will the Dems have a 80 seat House majority and a 9 seat majority in the Senate? And the Administration.

    If not now, when? When we have leaders that don’t go along to get along.

  • Joe Moag

    Bravo! I am glad that the Dems are going to work WITH the Pentagon to overturn this vile law, and that they are going to do it once they have established the “Bona Fides” of the new President on matters military.

    Remember what got us DADT? It was that jackass Clinton who thought he could, with ZERO American support, ZERO Pentagon support, and ZERO military cred, grandstand a “new direction” in the first year of his new Presidency. I, for one, think that this is too important to fuck up again.

    This slow and steady approach is EXACTLY what the 200+ retired military officers who signed a statement calling for the repeal of DADT suggested doing. Doing it slow, and GETTING IT RIGHT!!!

    Now, all the mypoic folks can just add one more piece of “proof” as to how “Obama is selling us out”.

    Go ahead. Meanwhile, adults are making serious changes to the fucked up world that has been inherited. But, I guess holding your breath until one gets what one wants is something to do in the meantime…

  • Tom in Houston


    Slow and Steady? Not exactly. There doesn’t seem to be any movement at all. Its been 15 years since 1993. And now we are expected to wait ANOTHER two years? And not get ANYTHING if the Dems lose as much as one seat in the 2010 elections because then they’ll say ‘well we need to move to the center’. DADT repeal has wide approval in the Congress and the public. The Dems appear to be waiting for Peter Pace, Elaine Donnally, and the Air Force Acadamies Chaplians Board to agree first. Which, of course, will never happen. There will anti-Gay freaks screaming about this whenever it is pushed.

    DADT could be repealed tomorrow if HRC and the Dems held a vote on it. But it won’t be repealed. Because the Human Rights Campaign is selling us out. Maybe they’ll get Obama or Pelosi to come to a fundraiser where they can raise funds to buy another building or pay some ‘bonuses’ to their ‘professional’ staff.

    Meanwhile, people’s lives and careers are still being ruined over this. Thanks HRC and Pelosi. Thanks for nothing. Maybe we can primary Pelosi in the San Francisco Democratic Primary in 2010.

  • John K.

    Lots of Democratic Senators are up for re-election in two years. That means if things don’t go well for Obama (which is likely with this economy, whether it’s his fault or not) we could see control of the Senate go back to the Republicans or at least lose a substantial number of seats and no longer be anywhere near the 60 needed to thwart a filibuster. That means, by the time the Dems decide it’s time to take up DADT, it will likely be too late. The first two years are the only guaranteed time at this point to get ANY pro-LGBT legislation passed. Don’t any of you sit back and let them get away with this. Start writing them, or don’t bitch when it doesn’t happen.

  • Qjersey

    hey you queers, just wait in the back of the bus, we’ll get there eventually

  • Michael W.

    @John K.: That’s the thought process Clinton had. Let’s get everything done now before the midterm elections. And look how well that turned out.

    The fillibuster proof majority was bullshit anyway. There’s plenty of Dems who are strongly against the repeal of DADT. Jim Webb for example. Every Democrat isn’t ready to march lock step behind Obama, Pelosi and Reid on social issues, especially those with re-election in more conservative parts of the country coming up. The whole situation is far more complicated than most make it seem.

    Maybe gay men and women in the armed forces need to rise up and leave or threaten to. Then it can become an issue of retaining valuable soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen at a time when we can’t spare a single one. Change the dynamics and force the politicians to act. They never volunteer to do it on their own.

  • Tom in Houston

    Jim Webb will block a DADT repeal? Doubtful. Theres a difference between voting no on the repeal and voting to block it from coming to the floor.

    We need 60 to get to a vote. Ok.. Specter, Snowe, and Collins are three GOPers who will vote to get it to the floor.

    Now which other 2 US Senators will not just vote no on the legislation but will block it from coming to the floor? Byrd and ……

    There are plenty of Senators that don’t WANT to vote on this, but who can’t vote against it or block it if there is a vote. Thats why a vote is so critical.

  • BrianPrince

    Tact is something necessary for this administration to exercise. I doubt, however, that it will exercise a great deal of tact. The outright alienation of queer America… even before taking office, has been what Bush may well have termed a “preemptive attack” if he could mutter the words.

    DADT should be thrown into the pits with the other useless legislation, like NCLB. It’s a complete waste of time and money — the fact that the government is willing to continue to marginalize the gay population for the sake of convenience leaves me outraged.

    Right now, they’re saying, “Give us two more years.” In two years… they’ll be asking for two more, and stripping us of whatever liberties we’ve managed to accumulate from the scraps on the ground that have fallen through the cracks. Two years… Two months, two weeks, two days, two hours is unacceptable.

    How much longer will you stand silent, so that the nation can raise itself up, by trampling you down?

  • Ken

    As someone that was in the US Army for 10 years, and most folks knew I was gay, the time is NOW. Don’t wait. The US Military needs soldiers, and with that need, we can show them no reason to keep us out. They have the “moral waivers ” program in place, and are kicking out gay’s that are already trained!

    Do it now, while they need soldiers badly enough!

  • Brian Miller

    What a surprise — the Democrats lied and equality died. Again.

    This is a reply of Clinton 1992. Lots of promises followed up by politicians reneging on every single one of them.

    Just three months ago, Democrat partisans were running around telling us that a Democrat majority in the federal and state governments would bring us gay marriage in New York, federal civil unions, an end to the anti-gay military policy, and new dignity for gay people.

    Now, mere weeks after the election and even before taking office, every single one of those promises has been thrown under the bus (along with queer folk). They took our money and votes, and then invited a notorious homophobe to be their keynote invocation at the inauguration, reneged on gay marriage in NY, and are backing away from even a tepid change like ended DADT (the repeal of which has been supported by a massive majority of voters for years now).

    Unfortunately, queer partisans like Missy Etheridge, Andrew Sullivan and others keep making excuses and say “thank you sir, may we have another?”

  • BrianPrince

    @Brian Miller: You say that the democrats lied… as if they’re the only ones. Have you forgotten Palin’s massive budget faux pas… or the fact that for the last… two-hundred years, every single politician that has ever had office, anywhere in the United States (and most likely the world), whether republican, democrat, green, liberal, conservative, socialist… has lied?

    Politicians will continue to do what politicians continue to do best… lie.

    Bush lied… and we ended up in a war.

    The difference is… this time, the war isn’t on some intangible concept like terrorism that gives the feds carte blanche to go trolling the planet looking for mystical boogie men… this time… the war is on us.

  • Brian Miller

    You say that the democrats lied… as if they’re the only ones

    Then again, I wasn’t one of the drooling, fawning Obama fanbois, weeping tears of joy at every speech and insisting that all we had to do is vote and Change We Can Believe In would happen — bringing us a New Era of Leadership who understands that We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For.

    And those of us who pointed out that Obama was just another lying, pandering, spineless two-bit scumbag politician were lambasted as cynics who don’t believe in Hope and Change.

    The most embarrassing thing was watching these fawning Obamaniacs — many of whom were middle-aged — act like drunken high school aged children.

    Now, reality has hit and they refuse to allow the “dream” to die, nor concede that they were a bunch of trippy, starry-eyed mooncalves. We in the LGBT community can blame them just as much for the predicament we are now in as the Christianist right.

  • RichardR

    @Tom in Houston: So Tom, you have a problem with HRC?

  • Tom in Houston


    If HRC insists on speaking for the Gay community as its leaders and insists on not fighting for the interests of the community it is open for criticism. In addition, HRC appears to me to be fighting AGAINST the Gay community by signing off on this outrage. What did we get in return? I don’t see any Gay Federal Judges. I don’t see any gay US Prosecutors. I don’t see any gay Agency Heads. I don’t see any Gay policy makers. I don’t see ENDA on the agenda. I don’t see PPIA on the agenda. I don’t see HCPA on the agenda.

    I have NEVER seen a TV ad from HRC. Never. Not one. At best, I have seen ineffective press releases.

    I DO see HRC fighting against DADT repeal.

  • RichardR

    @Tom in Houston: Far from me to defend HRC — but Japhy’s post queried “So, which strategy is best? Flanking in from the side via committees and panels or storming up the center with a timetable for repeal? Or do we proceed on multiple fronts?” and you seem focused on HRC’s failures.

    My biggest problem with HRC is the same I have with all our “leadership” — it’s self-appointed! We don’t really have “leaders.” Maybe somebody should run an election. I vote for Rachel Maddow.

    Whoever decided to push gay marriage as our current “cause” got it ass-backwards. They, no make that we, should have started with DADT. I mean, my own nation discriminates against me? My country?

    In the reality of national politics, we’ve been in a dead zone since Clinton, and as many posters here frequently point out, that wasn’t exactly “the best of times” for us, either.

    Ideologically, banning gays from the military is and always was wrong and should long since have been reversed. Realistically, because Washington moves really slowly, and pretty much one thing at a time, and because the incoming administration has got seriously tough stuff to deal with, our issues are going to get deferred. That sucks, but it’s reality.

    Now then. To answer Japhy’s query, I feel that the best approach is the multiple fronts one. Everything everybody does is good. What HRC does is lobby Congress. They build relationships, they schmooze, they persuade, they support candidates.Other organizations, such as NGLTF, build grass-roots structures. They knock on front doors. Lamda Legal (my fave of these national biggies) takes it all to court.

    What we as individuals and collectively have to do is hold our leaders’ feet to the fire — our community “leaders” as well as our elected ones. We have to let them know what we expect them to do and make sure they do it. Even PE Obama himself has told us — the gay community — that it’s up to us.

    If I were he (imagine that, an old gay recovering alcoholic former courtesan as POTUS!) I sure would prioritize a jump-start for this staggering economy, including serious oversight on these billions of dollars we’ve committed to banks and Wall Street. Then I’d close Guantanamo and wrap up the Iraq war and get serious in Afghanistan, where our military focus should have been all along. Sometime in there I’d get work started on fixing this nation’s health care system — it’s way beyond just getting insurance for everybody. And you may be sure, as I’m working with the Joint Chiefs and the heads of each branch of the military and with congressional leaders, I would be saying, “I want you guys to start talking with your people and with each other about this stupid policy we have on gay people in the military. I want it gone.”

    That’s how I’d do it.

    However, I’m not POTUS, I don’t work for but do support some of the national organizations. What I do is be out. What I do is write letters. Yes, letters. Not e-mails or phone calle, though I do that too. Letters. To leaders, elected and not. To editors.
    and I post. At excessive length, sometimes!

  • Tom in Houston

    But HRC just killed DADT repeal by its agreement. Killed it. More effectively than Peter Pace, or the Family Research Council or Elaine Donnelly could have.

  • RichardR

    @Tom in Houston: So, again quoting Japhy’s query,you feel that “storming up the center with a timetable for repeal?” is the way to go?

    Sorry, but I must have missed something — with what did HRC agree, thus killing DADT? What “agreement”? How do you “see HRC fighting against DADT repeal”?

    Like I said earlier, I’m not defending HRC, just don’t understand your references.

  • Tom in Houston


    If DADT doesn’t come up before 2010, it won’t ever come up. Because if the Dems lose as much as one seat, they’ll say, ‘oh now it will be time to move to the center’. HRC knows this. And is aiding and abetting the continuance of DADT by agreeing to sign off on the delay in the repeal effort. They have effectively killed DADT repeal for years if not decades. And for what?

  • RichardR

    @Tom in Houston: Tom I wish you would tell me more specifically about this “agreeing to sign off on the delay in the repeal effort” of DADT. I want to run this down.Thanks.

  • Tom in Houston

    From TPM Election Central

    “A cautious non-approach to this was also supported by Brad Luna, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay-rights group. “There is a strategically correct way to go about this,” said Luna. “This policy has been in place for a number of years. It’s not going to be repealed overnight.”

    Roll Call (subscription) also has a story on this issue.

    It appears to me that HRC is signing off on the delaying of DADT repeal. Effectively killing it for God knows how many years.

    Its not going to be repealed overnight if HRC wants to endorse this ‘go slow’ approach.

  • RichardR

    @Tom in Houston: Thanks, Tom, for the reference. I still don’t see an “agreement,” but the repeal of DADT was never going to happen “overnight.” The time, however, is right, I agree, and ending this dumb and hurtful policy will be one of “our” benchmarks for Obama’s first term — and you have a point about the urgency of the first two years. As I wrote earlier, we have to put pressure on all parties — elected officials as well as lobbyists — to advance this. Clearly, and unfortunately, there are priorities: wars, the economy, health care; but the process of repealing DADT can start now — keeping the issue alive, calling and writing officials, making sure the needed consensus is being built. And enjoying Elaine Donnelly’s idiocy! She really is annoying.

    Thanks again for the reference. I’m writing HRC and Specter, who is my Senator. And Obama, post-inauguration. And Jim Webb (I’m originally from Virginia).

    Honestly, I’m convinced that all this issue-driven stuff? It’s not about gay marriage, gays in the military, gays adopting. It’s about gay. Prejudice, impure and complicated.

  • Charles J. Mueller

    @Tom in Houston:

    Tom, HRC, unfortunately, is like a government bureaucracy. Once created, it continues to exist for it’s own celebration even when the need for it has long passed.

    Doctors don’t pursue health. They make their money treating illness.

    Dentists aren’t interested in saving teeth. They make their money by fixing teeth that you will eventually lose anyway.

    Firefighters aren’t interested in preventing. fires. They earn their paychecks by putting fires out.

    Lawyers don’t protest unfair laws. They make their money extracting you when you become ensnared in one.

    Churches aren’t interested in preventing sin. They make their money harvesting sinful souls.

    HRC, ACLU, NAACP, Etc., Etc., Etc., are not interested in equality. They make their money by pointing out inequality.

    Any questions?

  • RichardR

    @Charles J. Mueller: Charles (if I may so address you), such cynicism!

    When I was a teenager, an older friend observed that I was the youngest skeptic he’d ever known. I do understand — and in many cases, agree utterly with — your observations about those in business to help and protect us. You’re too harsh, however, in my opinion about most doctors (I have a wonderful one); some dentists (I never want another toothache, ever; and I did have one dentist tell me flat out, when I protested his prices, “I’m running a business here”; virtually all firefighers; some lawyers (Lamda Legal, for example, does a wonderful job for our community, as do most community legal service organizations); churches — SO much to say there; to quote their bible, love of money is the root of all evil, and goodness knows we’ve raised lots of money for them; “equality” organizations? a very long discussion. HRC, for example, makes really dumb blunders, but they do have far more access to lawmakers that I, and I am very grateful for the work done by ACLU (I don’t support the former anymore, do loyally support the latter).

    All that said, I always enjoy your posts and wish you a Happy New Year

  • Cam

    That is because Barney Frank doesn’t experience any discrimination. He is a US Congressman, and he never had the dignity to out himself, he was outed by a scandal. So this coward won’t bother to do anything for two years because…why should he? His life is fine. Maybe if you could be fired from being a CONGRESSMAN for being gay he would decide this bill was worth taking up sooner.

  • Paul

    Here is yet an example of what I believe will continue to happen if they Dems do delay: I believe this will be led by the officers in all branches; how fitting that they lead?

    More and more of our troops will come out and there will be a grassroots effort that will ultimately be the “Tipping Point” to repeal DADT. If you don’t give people what they want eventually they will rise up and get it for themselves.

  • Paul

    In light of this article, I think this statement by Anthony is fitting: “If this policy’s ever going to go away,” he says, “they have to lose talented people. It’s not going to go away unless it hurts.”

  • N.J.

    I am willing to bet that Obama would SIGN legislation to repeal DADT and DOMA etc.

    All everybody yelling about it would have to do is get enough votes in Congress to pass it over a filibuster and that isnt at all likely even with Republican support because there are conservative Democrats, from states that would otherwise have Republican Senators if they were not conservative Democrats. Its not just a few Republicans they have to convince to vote for it, but probably anywhere from 5 to 10 conservative Democrats who have very socially conservative constituents.

    There are enough conservative Democrats to block any repeal of DADT who have publically stated they would block it, and they would not have made those public statements if they felt if would anger a large percentage of their constituents. Most of these conservative Democrats come out of relatively conservative states in the midwest, that look very Red on a map.

    The HRC signed off on the agreement to wait on this because most of the organization defending gay members of the military advised them to do so, and so did many progressive legal organizations. They said doing it now was to have the bill arrive at the senate D.O.A. and in fact, probably never get to the floor for a vote because of who controls the Armed Services Committee. The only thing that will change these people votes, and they have said this, is a study from the Joint Chiefs that shows that DADT is hurting the military. They are likely to get that from the Joint Chiefs as most of them support repeal.

    Push for a fast track on this and it either never makes it to the floor for a vote, OR it fails to get the votes to pass (that is 100 percent certain) and it gets shelved for four or five years because no one will trust those who offer it again to be prepared to get enough votes for it to pass.

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