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Thoughts on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will remain in effect pending a Federal Appeals Court review, thanks to a Supreme Court decision (or lack thereof) and a little gentle pressure from President Obama. Yes, the same one who vowed to end the policy on his watch is now advocating for its extension.

But why? You might expect him to be happy about last month’s ruling by district court Judge Virginia Phillips that the 17-year-old policy challenged by the Log Cabin Republicans (a gay Republican group) was in violation of the First Amendment rights of the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers. But instead he claimed that lifting the ban now could hurt his own efforts to study the effect of lifting the ban, and future attempts to do it.

The White House appealed, and asked Phillips for a stay in the order to lift the ban. When the reasoning wasn’t good enough for Phillips, the Obama administration took it to the Appeals Court who decided that the policy could remain in place for now. The White House also urged the Supreme Court not to get involved.

He’s swearing to push the issue on his “lame-duck” Congress, which began its session this week, before the newly elected take their seats and the GOP regains control. This puts him in a strange position of advocating a policy he is against until enough research and planning has been done to lift it responsibly.

Obama wants to give the military time and resources to prepare for the open service of gay people, such as through of providing programs for soldiers to “out” themselves to their comrades.

The military says it will comply if asked to stop enforcing DADT, but some are still worried about unforeseen consequences. Some military officials have warned that lifting the policy could disrupt operations, troop morale and recruiting, and “irreparably harm the public interest in a strong and effective military.”

Mirroring the sentiment of Obama (or is it the other way around), Sen. John McCain came out against it, saying that “Once we get this study, we need to have hearings. And we need to examine it. And we need to look at whether it’s the kind of study that we wanted.” Debate about studying a study isn’t just the bane of student government reporters; it’s also one of the pitfalls of conservative politics in this country.

It’s good to be weary of radical political change, and even better to study and flush out details of the changes before they happen – but it can also lead to stagnation, which is especially dangerous when we’re talking about the First Amendment rights of a group being systematically repressed.

Hopefully Obama is dragging his feet on making this happen because he is just concerned about doing it in the most responsible and sustainable way possible for all parties involved. Hopefully it doesn’t turn in to “I tried to stay true to my campaign promises but THEY wouldn’t let me” political fodder for elections to come. Hopefully it isn’t because lifting the ban wasn’t going to have his name attached to it if it were allowed to pass last month. Hopefully we finally get around to fixing this mess, and restoring rights to Americans who fight for them.

  1. El Kabong says:

    After talking with some friends who are active service members it is understandable why they want to better prepare themselves for a transition.

    As much as I want to believe that the (predominantly) 18-25 year old males who signed up for military service are mature and rational enough to accept a sudden policy shift that directly affects their day to day relationships, I have my doubts.

    Put another way: if the people playing Call of Duty on the Xbox are the kind of people who join the military, they really don’t tolerate gay people well.

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