Today, SecDef Bob Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen are expected to announce that the Defense Department will stop aggressively pursuing third-party charges of homosexuality against service members. They will also announce the formation of a group to study the issue for a year and (one would hope) to develop an implementation plan for eliminating the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
Gay rights groups are calling the hearing historic even as they question how quickly the administration is prepared to act. But Republicans are already signaling that they are not eager to take up the issue.
“In the middle of two wars and in the middle of this giant security threat,” Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC, “why would we want to get into this debate?”
Still, it is undeniable that a variety of 21st-century forces — a new generation in the military, a change in climate at the top levels of the Pentagon, pressure on the president from a critical interest group, even Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand’s anticipated Democratic primary battle in New York — converged to begin repeal of a 1993 law that has led to the discharge of more than 13,000 gay men and lesbians, including desperately needed Arabic translators.
As Mr. Gates told Mr. Obama last year, it was no longer a question of if the ban would be repealed, but when, said the meeting participant, who declined to be named to discuss internal White House deliberations.
Polls now show that a majority of Americans support openly gay service — a majority did not in 1993 — but there have been no recent broad surveys of the 1.4 million active-duty personnel.
A 2008 census by The Military Times of predominantly Republican and largely older subscribers found that 58 percent opposed to efforts to repeal the policy; in 2006, a poll by Zogby International of 545 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans found that three-quarters were comfortable around gay service members.
I understand President Obama's desire to postpone this debate until the health care issue was resolved. Since that issue is now nearly concluded, it is certainly time to move toward closure on DADT. The Republican claims that the military would lose efficiencies or be uncomfortable around Teh Gays just doesn't hold water. But that shouldn't matter, since they are the minority party, right? I'm much more concerned that conservative Democrats will try to hold up the issue in fear of election year backlash. What we ought to see is the Senate Democrats placing a short paragraph in the FY 2012 National Defense Appropriations bill. That would seal the deal, but do they have the guts? Will the Dems in fact grow a spine this year? I guess we'll find out.