This afternoon, during an eQualityThinking Panel titled, “The Truth Behind The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal,” former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) tried to explain why advocates of DADT repeal ultimately bargained away the requirement that the Pentagon implement a new nondiscrimination policy after lifting the ban against open-service. The provision — which would specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — was part of Murphy’s initial amendment but was later removed to improve the chances of passage, as the former Congressman described it. Gay rights leaders are now pressuring President Obama to issue an executive order instituting a nondiscrimination policy to ensure that gay troops have the same rights and protections as straight servicemembers.
“[E]veryone played a vital role in passing this major piece of civil rights legislation all being it’s not perfect. The 1964 civil rights legislation was not perfect, but it was a huge step on the way forward,” Murphy said on the call. “We need to make sure that we continue to keep the pressure on to make sure that they don’t try to revoke this over in the Congress.”
Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), who was also on the call, reiterated Murphy’s explanation saying, “a decision was made by the leaders of the legislation on the Hill that those provisions would have to be dropped in order to insure more votes, not only in the House Armed Services Committee, but also on the House floor. So, it was a matter of practical necessity and politics.” In May, Murphy had suggested that he received assurances that the government would implement a nondiscrimination policy once DADT is repealed. “I’m fully confident in the public testimony of both Secretary of Defense Gates of Chairman Mike Mullen and our current Commander in Chief, Barack Obama, that they have been very clear that they want to have a nondiscriminatory policy in place,” he told me. He did not, however, reiterate this commitment on today’s call or address why Obama dodged the question twice during a recent interview with Kerry Eleveld.
Murphy also added that the certification language — which was also not part of the original repeal amendment — was added to give the Pentagon “buy in” and build support for the measure among more conservative members in Congress. “Putting that language in the bill that was finally passed it gave them buy in, it wasn’t like we were shoving it down their necks,” he said, before adding, “I don’t think this is a gradual phase out, it’s going to be a light switch — it’s just a procedure that needs to be agreed on.”