May 24, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
White House endorses delayed ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

President Barack Obama's administration endorsed Monday a path to repeal the law that prohibits gays, lesbians and bisexuals from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces. (Photo courtesy of DNC)

The White House has endorsed an approach to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” whereby legislation Congress passes to repeal the law would not become effective until after the Pentagon completes its study on the issue.

In a letter Monday, Director of the Office of Management & Budget Peter Orzag writes that an amendment proposed by supporters of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal adheres to the Pentagon’s request to finish its study on the issue at the end of the year and therefore is supported by the Obama administration.

Orzag says that the Pentagon review would be “ideally” completed before Congress takes action on the issue, but notes the administration “understands that Congress has chosen to move forward with the legislation now and seeks the administration’s views on the proposed amendment.”

“Accordingly, 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,” Orzag says.

Orzag also says in the letter that he understands the amendment would ensure implementation of repeal is consistent with “standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention.”

Additionally, the amendment would “guarantee” the Pentagon has in place necessary policies and procedures to implement an end to the law. The measure would allow for the “critical need” to allow members of the U.S. armed forces to share their “concerns, insights and suggestions” about implementing the repeal process, according to the letter.

“The administration therefore supports the proposed amendment,” Orzag writes.

Notably, the proposed amendment lacks non-discrimination language and would return authority on discharging LGBT service members to the Pentagon.

The OMB letter came in response to another letter earlier in the day from repeal supporters in Congress — Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) — who asked the administration to support their proposed amendment.

The lawmakers’ letter says that they have created a proposal that “puts a process in place to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ once the working group has completed its review” and the president and Pentagon leaders “certify the repeal can be achieved consistent” with the standards of the military.

“We appreciate the input that you and the Pentagon have provided throughout this process and request the administration’s official views on our legislative proposal,” the lawmakers write.

In the House, supporters of repeal were anticipating Murphy to introduce an amendment to the floor this week that would attach repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill.

Later this week, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to markup the legislation and expected to consider a similar amendment.

Supporters of repeal previously said they were a few votes shy of passing repeal out of the Senate Armed Services Committee. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the OMB letter would move additional committee members to favor repeal, but the letter could serve to bolster these efforts.

Advocacy groups hailed the OMB letter for outlining an administration-backed path to passing repeal this year.

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said Monday the new support from the administration means people rallying against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are “on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops.”

“Today’s 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,” Solmonese said.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called the agreement a “dramatic breakthrough.”

“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,” Sarvis said.

While Sarvis said support from the administration would help ensure a winning vote, he said “we are not there yet” and “votes still need to be worked and counted.”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said Monday’s letter was “long awaited, much needed, and immensely helpful.”

“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,” he said.

The endorsement from the administration prompted at least one social conservative group to take action. On Tuesday, the Family Research Council planned to hold a conference call with media to “release new national polling on homosexuals in the military” and discuss a new ad campaign “to protect the military.”

An announcement from Family Research Council says Tony Perkins, the organization’s president, would also discuss “grassroots outreach in the lead up to this week’s expected debate and votes in Congress.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

10 Comments
  • Great. Now let’s hope the President gets on the phone with 6 key Armed Services Committee senators (Nelson, Nelson, Bayh, Byrd, Webb, Brown) and personally asks them for their support. And to build rapport for the future, how about also talking to McCain, Graham and Chambliss? I can’t believe they are really as ignorant, bigoted or cowardly as they have appeared so far in hearings, and there is no reason DADT should end with just one vote in their committee.

  • So the Pentagon will still be able to discriminate against gay soldiers at will and for any reason; they just won’t have a law that orders them to do so, instead the law will empower them to do so at their leisure.

    Some compromise. Where’s the nondiscrimination policy?

  • Simply repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ would do nothing to eliminate those older laws that make homosexuality incompatible with military service. A repeal of DADT wouuld simply allow military supervisors and recruiters to stqart asking again. Service members would then be compelled to answer.
    The article is correct, “the proposed amendment lacks non-discrimination language and would return authority on discharging LGBT service members to the Pentagon.” Just the way it was before DADT gave service members the right to privacy regarding their sexuality.

  • The legislation to repeal the law would not become effective EVEN after the Pentagon completes its study on the issue. It could NEVER become effective. It requires a host of people to say if and when it will become effective. This is the non-repeal repeal. Some “fierce advocate”! Obama is NOT a friend and never was.

  • This is a misguided waste of priorities. Why does a compromise plan on DADT take center stage over a vote on ENDA? Lifting DADT only protects a fraction of us. Most of us don’t work in the military yet this gets more attention, press and action than ENDA. It’s obnoxious and unacceptable! Wake up before it’s too late that is if it isn’t too late already! ENDA needs to get through while the Congress still has enough people likely to vote for it and Obama is President. By the Fall elections it may already be too late!

    It’s obvious that the Pentagon study is simply adelaying tactic. They hope to drag this on indefinitely believing that if they can delay it long enough, Obama will be out of office and a right-wing President will reserve course.

  • JC and most of our communty was never his friend neither. Now just ask yourself if it was left up to our community to pick a president who would it be????

    BHillary Clinton and her and all her flaws with her opposing Gay Marriage and her beloved husband to our community Bill Clinton. If this was her in this present setting there would’nt be as half of the anger that is out here now. Because we LOVE Hillary and Bill and he is the reason why we are where are now!

    I don’t like how this going but we really don’t who is our friend…You says it’s not Pres Obama and neither S.O.S Clinton.

  • President Obama is a disgrace. He needs to step aside after the 2010 elections and let a real democrat run. He has played out his hand and lost. He will never get the right and he has now alienated the middle and the left, the base. We are out of patience and he is out of time after he loses congress in November. Move aside or expect a disaster in 2012.

  • Call Congress TODAY, THIS MORNING, at 202-224-3121. Ask to be connected to your Senators and Representative, and urge them to vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It is coming for a vote TODAY (Thursday, May 27, 2010). This is THE way that we will be able to move toward ending discrimination in the military this year. Call Congress NOW at 202-224-3121 and tell them to REPEAL DON’T ASK DON’T TELL.

  • The compromise bill is completely unacceptable. The only acceptable legislation is that which repeals DADT immediately and amends the Uniform Code of Military Justice to remove any reference to homosexuality being a criminal offense.

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