On the eve of California's first-ever Harvey Milk Day this past Saturday, Speaker Pelosi promised an assembled audience of advocates at an event for Equality California that she would see the discriminatory policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repealed by the end of the year. And in so doing, she took a strong stand against an Administration that had substantially backed off of promises to end DADT--at least until the close of a politically difficult midterm campaign.
But now, it looks like the Obama Administration has seen on the wall the handwriting created by pressure both from activists and from a House leadership team that seems more interested in doing what is right than what is politically expedient--and now a deal is in the works. Via The Advocate:
The Advocate has learned that concurrent meetings took place Monday morning at the White House and on Capitol Hill that could help clear the way for “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal to be attached to the Department of Defense authorization bill later this week.
LGBT groups met with officials at the White House while legislative affairs representatives from the White House and the Department of Defense met with the staff of House and Senate leadership offices on Capitol Hill along with those of Rep. Patrick Murphy and senators Carl Levin and Joseph Lieberman.
Shortly after the meeting, White House OMB Director Peter Orszag released a letter to Patrick Murphy signaling its (less than enthusiastic) acceptance of repeal via an amendment to the upcoming Defense Authorization bill. So why did the White House agree? Because the repeal amendment is still contingent on a sign-off from the White House and the Pentagon pending the review scheduled to be completed in December of this year:
According to one person familiar with the White House meeting, the proposal that is being considered would legislatively repeal the statute this year, but the current policy would remain in place and implementation of repeal would not occur until after the Pentagon’s working group study is finished in December. Further, completion of repeal would require certification from President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs chair Adm. Mike Mullen that the new law will not have a negative impact on readiness, recruitment, retention, and other key factors affecting the military.
This is not ideal, but it is gigantic step forward that can solve everyone's concerns: The House can get a chance to vote to repeal DADT while Democrats have a majority that will allow them to pass it, but the Administration has the flexibility to ensure the completion of the process once an exhaustive review has been completed (quite coincidentally, the month after the midterm elections). Congress gets to claim action; advocates get tangible progress; and Obama can claim that he did not impose anything, but he signed off on a consensus arrangement between Congress and the Pentagon.
Repeal of DADT may seem like a minor issue to some, but it should be considered a moral imperative. Nobody should have to grow up with our government telling them that they are not fit to serve their country because of their sexuality. It's great news that Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murphy are putting their cards on the table to make sure this happens--and that the Administration has agreed to let the right thing happen.