President Obama Signs Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy
This past Saturday the Senate finally passed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). The policy, which had been on the books for 18 years, prohibited homosexual men and women from serving openly in the Armed Forces of the United States. A Senate vote was being held in limbo by Republicans in an attempt to reach a deal on tax cuts for wealthy Americans, although, only eight Republicans voted for the measure during final passage.
With national polling showing overwhelming support for open service and a recent Defense Department report supporting repeal, it was just a matter of time before the discriminatory law was overturned.
President Barrack Obama signed the repeal yesterday before an audience of discharged servicemen and women and a slew of gay rights activists, including Joe Solmonese of Human Rights Campaign, Aubrey Sarvis of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United, Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and R. Clarke Cooper of Log Cabin Republicans. Other guests also included Col. Grethe Cammermeyer, who was awarded a Bronze Star in Vietnam and this year’s face of DADT, Lt. Dan Choi. Both were discharged due to DADT.
The President’s signature marks the completion of a key campaign promise he made during the 2008 election and should win back some temporary support from the left flank of his liberal base. It remains to be seen if congressional Republicans will pay a price for stalling and attempting to defeat repeal—if the past two years is any indicator, probably not. But for the servicemen and women discharged from the military and those seeking to serve openly in the future, Saturday wasn’t about political wins and losses, it was about moving forward on civil rights for all Americans.
History will judge our reluctance to allow open service the same way it looks in shame at our institutional policy against racial integration in the military a half-century ago. We have already lost 12,500 of our nation’s best and brightest to this blatantly homophobic policy, and on Wednesday we got the chance to correct that mistake. This is a matter of national security and national character; rarely in our history have two issues been as quintessentially codependent as the repeal of DADT.