Obama Backs Deal Fast-Tracking DADT Repeal

President Barack ObamaThe White House fulfilled its promise made to LGBT advocates and allies yesterday, agreeing to back a proposal in the House and Senate to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (DADT), the discriminatory 17-year-old law banning openly gay and lesbian service members. The promise, which meets the concerns of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, is contingent upon:

  • The Pentagon’s Comprehensive Review Working Group’s report on implementing the change, due Dec. 1
  • A written certification signed by the president, secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and assurance and that the new policy is “consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention” of the Armed Forces, states a letter from the Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag

On Monday, Sens. Joe Lieberman and Carl Levin and Congressman Patrick Murphy wrote a letter to President Barack Obama. In a long-awaited and welcome response, Orszag writes: “The Administration is of the view that the proposed amendment meets the concerns raised by the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [Adm. Mike Mullen] [and] such an approach recognizes the critical need to allow our military and their families the full opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process through a thorough understanding of their concerns, insights, and suggestions . The Administration therefore supports the proposed amendment.”

This “deal could win over lawmakers still on the fence about voting to scrap the ban on gays serving openly in the military before the Pentagon has had the chance to complete its yearlong study,” reports The Hill.

According to The Washington Post, repeal is “a foregone conclusion: Dems have the votes to get it done.” Murphy told a Post reporter today that he “has enough private commitments backing repeal to ensure that it passes by a comfortable margin. He says he’s been privately assured by Senate vote counters that it will pass the Senate, too.”

Dismantling DADT Gets Huge Applause

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” states Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis. “The path forward crafted by the president, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week. President Obama’s support and Secretary Gates’ buy-in should ensure a winning vote, but we are not there yet. The votes still need to be worked and counted.”

“We are on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops,” says Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. The “announcement paves the path to fulfill the President’s call to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year and puts us one step closer to removing this stain from the laws of our nation.”

“This announcement from the White House today is long awaited, much needed, and immensely helpful as we enter a critical phase of the battle to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law,” says Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under DADT. “We have been making the case to White House staff for more than a year now that delayed implementation is realistic, politically viable, and the only way to get the defense community on board with repeal, and we are glad to see the community and now the administration and defense leadership finally rally around this option.”

Obama is in San Francisco today, which has the nation’s highest percentage of same-sex households, to attend fundraisers for Sen. Barbara Boxer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

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