That One-Pronged Legislative Strategy to Repeal DADT Won’t Work. Here’s Why

“The dismantling of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will require a series of inadequate, partial and highly frustrating solutions. Full-scale integration, unfortunately, will not take place even if [the Military Readiness Enhancement Act] passes in its current form. Those who advocate for an exclusive emphasis on MREA frame the conversation in terms of a choice between the pure legislative option and the partial executive option. In fact, the question is not whether we will have a pure or a partial solution, but rather what is the best way to force a series of partial solutions whose cumulative impact will, one day, protect national security and constitute full equality.” —A stinging new report from the Palm Center titled “Self-Inflicted Wounds on “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell,” outlining how gay activists and legislators are missing the boat on overturning DADT


Related to this, those who oppose the two-part solution believe that any discussion of half-measures lowers the bar and creates a new, easier path of least resistance for politicians to follow. According to this logic, those members of Congress willing to vote for full-scale repeal are less likely to support it if they have the option of calling for a half-measure such as an executive order. If MREA were not stalled, this observation might have merit. But as long as the legislative process remains stalemated, there seems to be little value in ensuring that a minority of Congress remains willing to vote for its passage. Equally important, opponents of executive action ignore the value of suspending discharges to the larger debate over full repeal: once gays are serving openly, officially and legally, lawmakers will have before them the starkest evidence that openly gay service does not undermine the military.


If a unified community held the President accountable for his recent, misleading remarks about why he will not sign an executive order, redirected the national conversation to the two-part strategy and demanded immediate executive leadership as the first step in a multi-stage effort to lift the ban, we would maximize the chances for unlocking the stalemate in Washington and again see momentum toward an outcome that has been elusive for more than fifteen years.

Read the full report here: