The White House hammered out a compromise Monday that supports Congress repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars gays from serving openly in the military, while allowing the Pentagon to continue its review of how to best implement the changes.
A vote on the proposal could occur as early as Thursday. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) is expected to introduce the legislative proposal on Tuesday.
Initially, the White House wanted Congress to delay repealing the controversial DADT policy until after the Pentagon finishes its review due on Dec. 1. But when administration officials realized that Congress would move ahead on trying to repeal the policy without its support, it called gay activists to the White House to work out a compromise on Monday.
According to the compromise, even if Congress passes a repeal of the ban it would not be effective until after the Pentagon completes its study.
But it is unclear if DADT will even pass in Congress because Republican lawmakers have vowed to oppose any changes to the current policy and conservative Democrats have also expressed that they are against the repeal until military leaders show clear support for the changes.
“The American people don’t want the American military to be used to advance a liberal political agenda,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). “And House Republicans will stand on that principle.”
Family Research Council, a conservative public policy group, criticized the proposal and repealing DADT.
FRC President Tony Perkins said the “back room deal” disregards the opinions of troops and uses the military to advance a political agenda of a special interest group.
“This rushed deal is a tacit admission that after the November election, the Democrats are likely to lose a working liberal majority,” said Perkins, a veteran of the Marine Corps., in a statement. “They want to get what they can now, and also far enough away from the election that it won’t be prominent in the mind of voters.”
FRC Action will hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon with military veterans to discuss the impact of the proposal and to mobilize grassroots activities to get lawmakers to vote against the repeal.
Earlier in May, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had advised members of Congress to wait until the Pentagon completed its review of the effects of repealing DADT before changing the rule.
In a letter to House Armed Service Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), Gates said he “strongly opposed any legislation that seeks to change this policy prior to the completion of this vital assessment process.”
Gay rights groups, however, opposed waiting for the Pentagon report and have strongly lobbied members of Congress to repeal the ban.
The controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was enacted by President Clinton in 1993 after Congress passed a law that same year banning homosexual from serving in the military. Though it bars openly gay individuals from serving in the U.S. military, it also bars the military from asking service members their sexual orientation.
President Obama, in his State of the Union address this year, said he wanted to repeal DADT this year, but then sided with Gates that a vote should wait until after the Pentagon study. Waiting for the review means that a repeal of the ban is unlikely to occur this year.
In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said the legislative proposal “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.”
Notably, even if the legislative repeal passes in Congress, it is unclear when it will take effect because it needs to be approved by President Obama, Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, who all support waiting for the Pentagon report.