Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report urging President Obama and his national security team to “begin working directly with Congress to enact legislation decisively overturning” the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Emphasizing that the Pentagon’s ongoing review is designed to study how rather than whether the policy should be overturned, the report argues that Congress should act swift and decisively to repeal the policy.
To that end, it reviews the experiences of Great Britain, Canada and Israel and concludes that any repeal “of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell [must] not be perceived as a complicated puzzle requiring complex solutions to minor problems.” The report notes eight areas “where we believe the military must change rules and regulations in order to effectively implement the new policy”:
1. Training: Mandate that the Department of Defense make sexual orientation part of existing servicewide nondiscrimination training programs.
2. Legal issues arising from repeal: After “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed, there will be no federal law prohibiting service members’ same-sex partners from receiving certain benefits afforded to the same-sex partners of civilian DoD employees and employees of other federal agencies, including the State Department. Certain benefits can be provided if the president revises and reissues his June 2009 White House memo on same-sex domestic partners to include the military services.
3. Housing and common-use facilities: Signal clearly that the military will not segregate housing, showering, and other common-use facilities based on sexual orientation.
4. Benefits: “There is no federal law (beyond “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”) that prohibits the president from applying the June 2009 White House memo that establishes a procedure for extending certain benefits to the same-sex partners of federal civil service employees to same-sex partners of service members.
5. Code of Conduct issues: Congress should repeal the ban on sodomy in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is rarely enforced on heterosexuals, and replace it with a ban on all sexual acts that undermine good order and discipline.
6. Discipline and promotion: The military’s equal opportunity program should be amended to include issues of sexual orientation, as discussed in the training section.
7. Retroactive compensation and reinstatement: DoD should allow previously discharged service members the opportunity to re-enlist provided that they meet all other age, fitness, moral, and educational standards as all other prior service members must.
8. Health concerns: Existing health regulations are adequate and do not need to be revised, including pre-entry HIV testing and regular testing for active duty service members and troops about to deploy.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates “will lay out elements of the department’s strategy to repeal the prohibition on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers later this week.” Whether he’ll consider implementing any of the above recommendations before completing the year-long review is unclear.