In response to the Obama administration's endorsement of congressional efforts to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Rep. Peter Roskam claimed that discussing the discriminatory military policy "doesn't honor" the troops.
The national disgrace that is the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy could come to an end before the year is over. Just weeks after Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Congress to postpone repealing DADT until a year-long review of the anti-gay military policy is completed, the Obama administration made an about face, striking a deal between the Pentagon and lawmakers to insert as an amendment into the FY 2011 defense appropriations bill a formal repeal of the 17-year old law. House Democrats want to take up that measure before the Memorial Day recess, possibly as early as Thursday.
There are still a lot of steps between the formalization of this agreement and the elimination of DADT. The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman explains what comes next:
Obviously we still have to play the full 27 outs. DADT opponents still have to get the votes through the Senate committee and then the full Senate. They have to add Murphy’s amendment to the bill in the House and then vote it through. (It’s the Defense Authorization, of course, so the prospects are pretty bright.) Then Obama has to sign it and the Pentagon will have to implement it.
The final deal also allows the Department of Defense to wait until December 1 to initiate the change. That's when the results of the Pentagon Study Group report will be released. Even so, it's a major victory for gay rights activists who have pressured Obama on the topic since his administration took office. Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese summed it up best in a statement last night, writing that "we are on the brink of historic action."
Still, not everyone is thrilled that Congress is zeroing in on DADT. During an appearance on WLS Radio's Don Wade & Roma this morning, Illinois' own GOP Rep. Peter Roskam suggested that holding a public conversation about the discriminatory military policy is "manipulative" and "doesn't honor" the troops. Listen (the full interview is available here):
ROSKAM: We've got to focus on jobs and the economy. What the American public is very reluctant about, and I think deeply resents, is the idea of using our national military for politics -- moving a political agenda and manipulating the military in the process. And it just seems completely incongruous. It doesn't honor the people that are serving in the military, it doesn't hold them in high esteem. Instead, it says we're gong to manipulate you and we're going to use you as a foil in this great debate that we're having across our country. You know what, let's have the great debate, but let's not use these folks as a pawn in this political game.
Debating DADT "doesn't honor" the troops, congressman? To the contrary, we'd argue that the policy itself dishonors those in uniform, considering that 13,500 qualified gay soldiers have been dismissed from service since 1994. Meanwhile, countless others have voluntarily left the armed forces or hid their sexual identities for fear of losing their livelihood -- this at a time when their military service is greatly needed.
It's also worth pointing out that the American people don't "deeply resent" action to eliminate this grotesque policy. A Washington Post poll from February found that 75 percent of respondents, including 64 percent of Republicans, support gay people serving openly in the U.S. military.
If Roskam and his colleagues in the Republican delegation truly support our military, they will give it the best possible shot to succeed. That means providing every American willing to serve the opportunity to do so.