Senior Armed Services Committee member Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) — who opposed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the 90s — has confirmed that he will introduce legislation repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the coming week. “I see this as an extension, the next step of the civil rights movement,” Lieberman told New York Daily News’ James Kirchick. “When you artificially limit the pool of people who can enlist then you are diminishing military effectiveness”:
“My own experience as a member of the Armed Services Committee, visiting our troops on bases here in this country and abroad, particularly in war zones, the most remarkable quality you’ll find is unit cohesion,” he told me. “What matters is not the gender of the other person in your unit or the color or the religion or in this case the sexual orientation. It’s whether that person is a good soldier you can depend on. And that’s why I think it’s going to work.”
While it’s unclear if Lieberman’s proposal will reflect the House’s repeal legislation, set a firm day for repeal (as one group has proposed) or attract the support of Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), repeal advocates are arguing that the best way for Congress to counteract the Pentagon’s feet-dragging (and win over enough support for the measure) is to include the repeal language in the Defense Authorization bill. “The President can have the repeal policy included in recommendations sent from the Pentagon to the Senate. That would show the President’s sincerity on the issue,” John Aravosis is suggesting.
Lieberman’s legislation can also benefit from some fortunate timing. On Tuesday, the Palm Center will release a “new study on foreign militaries that have made transitions to allowing openly gay service members concludes that a speedy implementation of the change is not disruptive.” The study concludes that “in foreign militaries, openly gay service members did not undermine morale, cause large resignations or mass ‘comings out.’ The report found that ‘there were no instances of increased harassment” as a result of lifting bans in any of the countries studied.’ Interestingly enough, the review did not study a gradual repeal — which is what the Pentagon seems to be suggesting — because “no foreign military has ‘tried it.””
Lieberman will have an opportunity to discuss the need for a swift repeal tomorrow when the Army’s Gen. George Casey and the Air Force’s Gen. Norton Schwartz will testify before Armed Services Committee. “Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway, who is said to oppose changes to the policy will testify on Wednesday.”