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Brad Luna says there’s consensus in the gay community that there needs to be a “strategy behind how this could be repealed.”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 In fact, at least one member of Congress wants to see Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell repealed in ’09: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?