Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) became the latest Democrat to support repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell yesterday, telling local Alaskan television that “it’s time to move on and change the policy.” “When you look at the militaries of Canada, and Great Britain and Australia, thy don’t have any policies like this. We serve arm-in-arm with them. Right on the front lines, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. It has not caused any disruption of how we perform our duties”:
BEGICH: It’s clear that they are going to look at this issue, they’re going to look at it over a short period of time, but it’s clear that it’s kind of done it’s time. It’s beyond it’s time. It has a lot of ways, people are now re-looking at it because it is time to make the change and so depending on how it’s laid out, and the military leadership has been supportive, in general — there are some who are not supportive at this point, I think it’s done it’s time. It’s time to move on.
Last week, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and 12 other Democrats — including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) — introduced legislation that would halt the discharges of gay and lesbian service members and replace DADT with a new nondiscrimination policy that “prohibits discrimination against service members on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Begich did not endorse Lieberman’s bill, however, and his office told me that he “supports the current course of reviewing how DADT will be repealed and taking part in the actions of Congress,” but “has not signed on to Lieberman’s bill.”
That legislation, called the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010, mirrors Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-PA) repeal bill in the House but goes several steps further, laying out a timeline for repeal and setting benchmarks for the Pentagon’s ongoing review of the policy. On Monday, nine additional senators joined as co-sponsors, increasing the count to 23.
Democrats hope to include the repeal legislation in this year’s defense authorization act, but the Pentagon’s year-long review of the policy could push back this goal. During his interview, for instance, Begich predicated his support for repeal on the military’s recommendations. “I think the military brass is going through a proper procedure to make sure that they can do it in a way that doesn’t disrupt the process of what they’re doing today,” he said.
Next Thursday, retired Marine general John J. Sheehan, former Air Force major Michael D. Almy, and former Navy lieutenant Jenny Kopfstein will testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Sheehan will testify in favor of maintaining the policy, Almy and Kopfstein in favor of repealing it.” Kopfstein, a lesbian and former Navy surface warfare officer separated under the law, and Almy, who’s gay and served as an Air Force communications officer for 13 years, will discuss their discharges under the policy.