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Entries in DADT (14)

Friday
Mar252011

DADT: Pentagon Discharged 250 Service Members in 2010

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON, D.C) -- In the months leading up to Congress’ repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” late last year, the Department of Defense discharged 250 service members for violating the ban on openly gay troops, a Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed to ABC News.

The figure, first reported by gay rights group Servicemembers United, covers the period Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010.  President Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 22, 2010. While the total number discharged is an all-time annual low, gay advocates said it reflects the continued impact of the policy despite efforts to make its enforcement more humane and the discharge approval process more rigorous.

In March 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates imposed new guidelines to raise the bar on who or what could initiate an inquiry into allegations of misconduct by a gay or lesbian service member. In October 2010, Gates went further, issuing a memo that said any discharges under "don't ask, don't tell" must be approved by the civilian secretary of the military service  branch involved in coordination with other top officials.  

“Don’t ask don’t tell” technically remains in effect until 60 days after Gates, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and the president certify that it can be safely rescinded. 

In 2010, most of the discharges under "don't ask, don't tell" -- 93 -- came from the Army.   The Air Force discharged 64, the Marine Corps discharged 39, and the Navy discharged 54, according to Servicemembers United, which tracks the data.

Since the policy first took effect in 1993, at least 14,316 service members have been discharged for being openly gay.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan142011

Poll: Americans Applaud Lame Duck; Will Quacking Continue?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Americans overwhelmingly welcomed the flurry of lawmaking between the lame-duck Congress and President Obama last month -- but they're hedging their bets on whether the duck keeps quacking.

In the latest ABC News/Yahoo! News poll, 77 percent say it was good for Obama and Congress to agree to lame-duck legislation on tax cuts, unemployment benefits, gays in the military, the START treaty and aid to 9/11 responders.  That percentage includes majorities across the spectrum -- 91 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents and 62 percent of Republicans.

Yet, despite what the lame-duck session achieved, Americans divide evenly on the chances that Obama and the Republicans in Congress will work together on important issues in the year ahead.  Forty-eight percent are optimistic about it -- just 14 percent "strongly" so -- but about just as many, 46 percent, are pessimistic about the prospects for political cooperation.

Optimism peaks among Democrats -- 60 percent see cooperation ahead.  That drops to 46 percent of independents and four in 10 Republicans in this poll, produced for ABC and Yahoo! News by Langer Research Associates.

The survey was conducted before the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in Tucson, Arizona.  Further polling will indicate whether that event and its aftermath impact public views of the prospects for political cooperation. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan072011

DADT Repeal Picks Up Steam at Pentagon, Support from John McCain

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The process of implementing the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy at the Pentagon appears to be picking up steam.   Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said we’ll likely hear in two weeks from top DOD officials that the process for changing current regulations and coming up with a training schedule has been concluded.

Since the repeal was enacted, the Pentagon’s been working on what regulations, policies and benefits would need to be changed as a result of the repeal. That process is nearing completion and soon we’ll hear DOD Personnel Chief Cliff Stanley and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright describe those changes. That briefing is expected in about two weeks.

Regulations won’t actually change until after the certification process by Gates, Mullen and President Obama is complete.  They’re also working on how the training process will begin.  Lapan said they’ll also discuss the start and end dates for the three phases of that process for implementation of the repeal of DADT within the military.

The implementation process will involve training legal and human resource officers, in addition to chaplains and recruiting officers on what regulations will be changed within the military with regard to  repealing DADT.  Commanders and military officials will also have to be trained before informing and training the 2.2 million people making up the Armed Forces. 

Gates said Thursday the goal of the systematic repeal is “ to move as quickly, but as responsibly as possible” and he had asked that the first two phases be accelerated as quickly as possible so the “real challenge” of training the 2.2 million could begin.  Gates used the word "training," but Lapan says it’s more about "informing" rather than educating the force.

Gates said he was “struck” by the comments of one of the Joint Chiefs that it was “better to do this sooner rather than later, so we’re approaching it with that philosophy in mind.”   Mullen reminded gay service members that now is not the time to come out because DADT is still in place, “We'll get through this. We'll do it deliberately. We certainly are focused on this and we won't dawdle.”

Even foes of repealing the policy are changing their tone.

"I think I have to do everything I can to make sure that the impact on the morale, retention, recruitment and battle effectiveness of the military is minimized as much as possible," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on Fox Business News. McCain led the charge against repeal. But now that the repeal is law, he said  he'll support it.

"It is a law and I have to do whatever I can to help the men and women who are serving, particularly in combat, cope with this new situation. I will do everything I can to make it work," said McCain.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec102010

Protestors to Senate: 'Don't Go Home' Until DADT Repealed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One day after the Senate shot down the chance to repeal "don’t ask, don’t tell, nearly 100 protestors gathered north of the Capitol to urge the Senate to forego their holiday vacation and remain in session until DADT is repealed.

Amid chants of “Don’t go home,” the protestors stressed that legislators had an obligation to the straight and LGBT service members stationed across the world through the Christmas holidays.

Gay and straight activists shared stories of personal struggle and sought to show that, no matter the orientation, all service members serve the same military.

The protest was organized by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a non-profit organization which was established in 1993 when DADT originally passed.  SLDN also organized the DADT rally with Lady Gaga this September.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec082010

Murkowski to Vote 'Yes' on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal, But There's a Catch

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The push to repeal the military’s controversial "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy potentially received a big boost Wednesday afternoon when GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the apparent winner in Alaska as a write-in candidate, announced that she will support the repeal.

“After reviewing the DOD report and the testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, I have concluded that it is time to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law,” Murkowski said in a statement.

“We expect all who serve to serve with integrity, but under current law gay and lesbian service members may speak about their sexual orientation only at the risk of being discharged from performing the duties they have trained hard to carry out,” she said. “America is the loser when it denies those who are willing to make the great sacrifices demanded of our men and women in uniform the opportunity do so on grounds of sexual orientation. I agree with Defense Secretary Gates’ view that the military can successfully implement a repeal of the 'don’t ask, don’t tell' law provided that proper preparations are implemented.”

But there is a catch. Murkowski, who lost the GOP primary to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller but then came back to defeat him as a write-in candidate in November’s election, said her support is contingent on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid allowing for “an open and fair amendment process.”

“My support for moving the Defense Authorization bill forward, which includes a repeal of the 'don’t ask, don’t tell' policy, will depend on whether the majority allows for an open and fair amendment process,” Murkowski said. “This is a weighty, policy-laden bill that normally takes several weeks to debate and amend. If the majority attempts to push it through allowing little or no debate or votes on amendments, I will be inclined to oppose those efforts.”

The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on the annual defense authorization bill -- that includes a repeal of the policy -- on Wednesday night. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Ct., believes the Republicans are negotiating for a full amendment process in good faith.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, no agreement on amendments had been reached, leaving the fate of the defense bill -- and the repeal of the policy on gays -- still up in the air.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov302010

Pentagon: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Not a Threat

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military is unlikely to hurt the effectiveness of U.S. troops, according to a Pentagon review released Tuesday.

The report includes interviews with former service members who are gay or lesbian, including those who were discharged from the military under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and 44,266 spouses. Of those surveyed, 69 percent said they had served with a gay service member and 92 percent of those respondents said they were able to work together. Fifty to 55 percent of those surveyed said the repeal won't have any effect, 15-20 percent said it would have a positive effect and 30 percent said it would be negative.

The report also concluded that encounters with gay service members are common.

"The reality is that there are gay men and lesbians already serving in today's U.S. military and most service members recognize this," the report states.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday the military will need some time to prepare for a repeal.

Gates convened the Comprehensive Review Working Group earlier this year to determine how the Defense Department might implement a repeal of the 1993 law.

The controversial law has been reconsidered politically, by legislation in Congress as well as constitutionally by federal courts, in recent months.

In September, legislation to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" failed in the Senate when Democrats fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed to advance the bill.

The House has already approved a conditional repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

More than 75 percent of Americans believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, a support rate higher than at any other time since the policy took effect in 1993, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov172010

Senate to Take Another Shot at 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Photo Courtesy - Reid dot Senate dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Wednesday night that he will take another stab at passing a repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy during the lame-duck session of Congress.

"Our Defense Department supports repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ as a way to build our all-volunteer armed forces. We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so,” Reid said Wednesday in a statement.

GOP lawmakers might be willing to support the repeal if Reid were to allow a lengthy floor debate on it that includes amendments, even if that throws a wrench into an already-packed Senate agenda that includes extending the Bush tax cuts and keeping the government funded after Dec. 3. Another group of Republicans has said they would not support a repeal until they have received a Pentagon report on the policy due on Defense Secretary Gates' desk on Dec. 1.

Thursday morning on Capitol Hill, a group of senators led by Joe Lieberman are set to hold a press conference to push the repeal.

Additionally, Reid said that he will set a stand-alone vote on the DREAM Act, a scaled-back immigration bill that would enable undocumented students who arrive in the U.S. before age 16 to become legal residents after five years by completing higher education or military service.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov122010

Cindy McCain Opposes John McCain Over 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- Cindy McCain has delivered a double-barreled rebuke to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and to her husband, one of the policy's leading supporters. She chose as her forum a new anti-bullying video sponsored by a California gay and lesbian rights group.

"Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future. They can't serve our country openly," says Cindy McCain. "Our government treats the LGBT community like second class citizens..."

The comments are the first time Ms. McCain has so publicly criticized the ban on openly gay and lesbian service members and exposes a deep divide over the issue of gay rights in one of the country's most prominent conservative families.

Sen. John McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee and decorated Vietnam veteran, has been a spirited supporter of "don't ask, don't tell" and led the effort to block repeal of the policy during a Senate vote in September. McCain's daughter, Meghan, a conservative blogger, has publicly aired her disagreement with her father, tweeting in September, "I am a supporter of LGBT rights and I am against DADT - I fight every day."

An ongoing Pentagon study of potential impacts of lifting the ban on openly gay troops is due to be completed by Dec. 1. But it's unclear how soon the results of that study will be shared with top military brass and members of Congress.

The House has already approved a conditional repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov102010

Obama Administration Asks Supreme Court to Keep 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' in Effect During Appeal

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration Wednesday night asked the Supreme Court to maintain the status quo and allow "don't ask, don't tell" to stay in effect while a lower court considers the constitutionality of the policy.

The controversial law forbidding openly gay troops from serving has been on a yo-yo-like legal journey since early October when a district court judge found it to be unconstitutional.

Judge Virginia Phillips issued a worldwide injunction barring enforcement of the policy. However, an appeals court later overturned the injunction, deciding that the policy should remain in effect while the government appealed the merits of the case.

Now the administration is asking the nation's highest court to uphold the appeals court ruling and allow the policy to remain on the books throughout the ongoing appeals process. "The court of appeals simply followed this court’s practice of granting a stay pending appeal when a district court declares an act of Congress unconstitutional,” the brief says.

The Log Cabin Republicans, the gay rights group that initially sued the government over "DADT," has been critical of the Obama administration’s tact and preference that the policy to be repealed by Congress and not through the courts.

"This week, Log Cabin Republicans have conducted meetings with numerous Republican senators potentially in favor of repeal, all of whom are waiting for the President’s call," R. Clarke Cooper, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. "The White House has been missing in action on Capitol Hill, undermining efforts to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in the final session of this Congress, potentially leaving the judiciary as the only solution for our brave men and women in uniform."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Oct142010

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': Pentagon Halts Enforcement as Justice Department Seeks Stay of Injunction

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon Thursday instructed military lawyers to halt all open investigations and pending discharges of gay and lesbian service members under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which has prohibited them from openly serving.

The notice from the Defense Department's general counsel to service judge advocates around the world comes in response to a judgment by Federal Judge Virginia Phillips Tuesday ordering an immediate, worldwide end to the policy's enforcement.

Phillips first ruled Sept. 10 that the policy is unconstitutional.

"The [Defense] Department will abide by the terms in the court's ruling, effective as of the time and date of the ruling," said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan.

Without a stay, "don't ask, don't tell" will no longer remain the law.

The Justice Department, which has defended the policy in court, filed an emergency request with Phillips, asking her to stay the worldwide injunction against the policy pending an appeal.

"The precipitous changes to military policy required by the court's injunction would result in a host of significant and immediate harms to the recognized public interest in ensuring that the nation has strong and effective military operations," government lawyers wrote.

Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian advocacy group, said he was not surprised by the administration's request, but was still disappointed. "If this stay is granted, justice will be delayed, but it will not be denied," he said.

Dan Woods, the plaintiffs' attorney, vowed to fight any appeal.  "We will fight vigorously to defend Judge Phillips' lengthy, well-reasoned decision," he said.  Gay rights advocates had anticipated that the administration might appeal the ruling and have advised caution to gay and lesbian service members currently serving.

"We're basically recommending that service members not change anything and operate as if DADT were still in effect," said John Alexander Nicholson, who is a plaintiff in the case and runs Service Members United, one of the largest advocacy groups in the country for gay and lesbian troops.

If the policy is reinstated, some pending investigations could also be allowed to continue.

"Right now, there's still a lot that could happen," said Drew Woodmansee, an attorney representing one of the highest-ranking military officers facing discharge under "don't ask, don't tell," Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach.  "My hope is that the government will see the writing on the wall and do the right thing and decide to let Col. Fehrenbach stay in, but until they do that I feel we can't let down our guard."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs has reiterated President Obama's belief that the policy is "unjust" and "detrimental to our national security," as well as his promise that it will end.  He declined to say whether the president found it unconstitutional.

The best way to end the policy is for the "Senate to follow the lead of the House of Representatives," Gibbs said Wednesday.  "This is a policy that is going to end.  It's not whether it will end.  But the process by which it will."

The House approved a repeal as part of the annual defense budget earlier this year, but the Senate failed to approve the measure in a vote last month.

"I feel strongly this is an action that needs to be taken by the Congress and that it is an action that requires careful preparation, and a lot of training and a lot of revision of regulation," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters on a flight to Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday.

The administration's position has not been well received by many advocates for gay and lesbian rights, who insist a repeal should not be put on hold.

"We had hoped that if President Obama truly believed that 'don't ask, don't tell' is wrong, particularly because it violates the First and Fifth Amendments, that he would use Judge Phillips' ruling as a means to end the policy," said Christian Berle with the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative gay rights group.

"It is really confusing and also heartbreaking for these service members who continue to put themselves in harm's way in service to their country," said Michael Cole, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign.  "Instead of the policy being repealed we've gone through seemingly endless legal wrangling and legislative posturing that has not served our national security interests."

The administration has said it is obliged to defend the policy in court, and Obama has said he would prefer it to be repealed legislatively.

"The Justice Department is defending the statute, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged," said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler in a statement.

The case was brought in 2004 by the Log Cabin Republicans, which argued that the military's 17-year-old policy violates gay service members' rights to free speech, open association and due process.  Judge Phillips agreed.

The Log Cabin Republicans estimate that 13,500 gay military service members have been ousted under the rules since 1994.

Phillips' decision marked the first time a federal judge had found the law unconstitutional on the grounds of due process and First Amendment violations.

Seventy-five percent of Americans say gays who disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, up from 44 percent 17 years ago.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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