forks in the road

Sen. Gillibrand’s DADT Strategy Isn’t Meshing With LGBT Military Activists. That’s a Big Problem


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has a grand plan to withhold federal dollars from the Pentagon for the use of investigating Don’t Ask Don’t Tell charges. Except gay rights advocates don’t think this is the best way to go about things. Um, does this mean Gillibrand is completely ignoring what LGBT activists want?

Not exactly. But it’s clear she’s not sticking to their strategy.

While Gillibrand has quickly worked up a reputation as a friend to LGBTs, one thing is becoming clear: She’s not taking cues from the folks claiming to represent them. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Aubrey Sarvis, who is The Awesome, tells Kerry Eleveld, “It’s helpful to talk about cutting funding for ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ discharges, but we must be strategic about when such a move would be made and now is premature.”

Instead, Sarvis — who worked with Gillibrand last year on her failed effort to institute a DADT moratorium — wants to build on the Senate’s DADT hearings that has the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs chairman, and the White House on the same page about a repeal. Pushing for a vote for the full-on repeal of DADT, perhaps via the Military Readiness Act, is his preferred game plan. if Gillibrand’s proposal goes to a full Senate vote, and it fails, the SLDN executive director sees momentum grinding to a halt.

So too does Servicemembers United head Alex Nicholson: “We want to make sure a vote on that would not foreclose pursuing a vote for full legislative repeal this year. Moderate senators may not want to take a vote on the policy twice in 2010.”

Their concerns are valid. But more surprising than these military groups’ disapproval of Gillibrand’s technique is that their distrust of the senator’s strategy means they were not (and are not) in agreement with Gilliibrand’s office on how to move forward. (Unclear from Eleveld’s article is whether they were even consulted.) And that’s a big problem, because it means these group’s No. 1 ally in the Senate is making moves without their counsel. (Gillibrand’s office says the senator is weighing their concerns.)

All of which begs the question: Is Gillibrand’s play on DADT just a calculated November election move? Or does she have a clearer picture of where her lawmaking colleagues stand than activist groups?

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  • Albert

    I’m confident she’ll reconsider her position and abstain from pushing it into the senate. Sounds proper what Sarvis is saying. Also, I don’t think she is using this issue as a cynical campaign tactic. Am I allowed to be this optimistic?

  • jason

    We don’t want moratoriums or funding withdrawals. All we want is an end to DADT. An end, simple as that.

  • John K.


    Would you prefer 100 discharges between now and a full repeal in December 2010 or zero discharges between now and a full repeal 2011? I hope it’s the former or you’ve missed the entire point.

  • jason

    John K,

    We must have complete repeal. I’ll accept nothing else.

    We mustn’t fall for the Democrat strategy of stringing us along with tiny promises that are designed to get us to vote for them in the upcoming Congressional elections. If we accept this strategy, we’ll end up with no repeal.

  • Brian NJ

    I think her actions put pressure on the Party for a full repeal, and are good. The Democrats have taken our support for granted, so they need pressure pressure pressure or they just fall asleep.

  • Brian NYC

    Her actions are meaningless. We have 51 anti-gay US Senators. The bond from NY doesn’t change their minds with these silly stunts. We won;t repeal DADT until we have more pro-LGBT Senators. That may take decades.

  • Brian NYC

    … the “blond” from NY …

  • jason

    Obama had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate until a few weeks ago. He failed to act on DADT when he had the opportunity to enforce this majority. As a result, the repeal of DADT remains questionable.

    I blame Obama for this. He is directly responsible. He is playing us for fools.

  • Steve

    The correct solution seems relatively simple.

    Full repeal of DADT, this year, can be done, while also providing the transition period that the admiral says they need.

    The repeal act needs to include two elements:
    1. A hard deadline for the brass to develop and implement new policies.
    2. During that transition period, a moratorium on discharges.
    People should be reassigned instead of being discharged.

    The absolute deadline should be one year, to the day, after the Admiral said they need “one year”.

  • Brian NYC

    @Steve: How do you get anything past the US Senate? We have 51 anti-LGBT Senators. How do you get them to agree?

  • Mark

    We need to send emails and makes calls. I’m not sure how many will change ALL the Senators minds, but I think it must be in the billions. We better get started.

  • Brian NJ

    Votes in Congress are not static things, they are negotiated, and moved. Obama must MOVE THEM. There was zero movement on DADT until Obama promised a repeal by years’ end in his State of the Union. It went to the bottom of the list when Obama was silent for a year. He has to show leadership and fight for his veterans. The gay community has a responsibility to hold him accountable. It is clear the Administration controls the order of the agenda.

    He is the leader of his party, and the party controls the government. Hold them accountable.

  • Robert, NYC

    If Chuck Schumer, her mentor has anything to do with it, she’ll back down on this one.

  • AndrewW

    @Brian NJ: Votes are sometimes negotiated, but NEVER for LGBT issues.

    If you believe a US Senator has ever changed his/her mind about an LGBT issue because of lobbying or negotiating, please provide an example.

  • Keith Kimmel

    I honestly don’t care about DADT right now. Not when there are MILLIONS of queers who cant keep their jobs as a result of the failure to focus on what matters, ENDA. DADT is a special interest cause that affects a small segment of the queer community. Ironic that this was my blog topic last night, then you all run with this today.

  • Brian NJ

    @Andrew W

    My point is that votes today, may not be votes tomorrow. They can change for different reasons. Negotiations can occur with this issue. Some Republicans have stated the want to see DADT repealed.

    It is not inconceivable that the Administration could negotiate a vote on repeal contained in the Defense Authorization Act with some republicans. Orrin Hatch has said he would like to see it go. If Obama works hard for us, he could work to secure some votes.

    But the statement that nothing can be done because the votes are not there is FALSE.

  • AndrewW

    @Brian NJ: Votes regarding gay-issues are NOT negotiable. I’d like to see some evidence that some Senator changed their mind because of negotiating or lobbying. It does happen for other issues, but not for anything “gay.” It is similar to positions taken on abortion.

    I’d love to see that some Senator changed his or her mind about LGBT issues, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Comments are closed.