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?