Don't Ask, Don't Tell Can Now Die Two Ways


Jenny Kopfstein, a decorated Naval officer, will testify in a case challenging Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell beginning today about how being openly gay led to her discharge from the Navy. The twist? The
case was filed by Republicans.

Log Cabin Republicans, that is. And since legislation repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is still winding its way through Congress, the Obama Justice Department is in the bizarre position of having to defend a policy it’s trying to overturn. The government tried to prevent a trial, with arguments that included citing the pending legislation. Not that they were in any rush to spend political capital on it, as one AP interviewee points out:

“This trial is taking place as a direct consequence of the president’s political decision in January 2009 to put the repeal of this law on the back burner,” said Richard Socarides, an attorney and a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay rights issues. “We shouldn’t still be living under a law that excludes people from military service because they are gay.”

So how is that legislation going? Well, having passed the House, it is currently awaiting floor debate in the Senate, along with the Defense Authorization bill it was tacked onto. The compromise the White House agreed to, delaying any repeal until a Pentagon study on its implementation is completed, is creating an entirely new wrinkle. Specifically, a Pentagon survey mailed out to 200,000 servicewomen and men is drawing fire from gay rights groups:

Citizens for Repeal and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network say that they cannot recommend that LGBT service members answer the questions, because it would in effect out them and risk discharge under the (still enforced) policy. “There is no guarantee of privacy and DOD has not agreed to provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself,” SLDN officials said in a statement.

The phrasing of the survey has also drawn fire for loaded phrasing, including using the word “homosexual,” which has been shown to negatively skew answers. The Pentagon has stood by the study.

It’s not clear whether the Senate will get to debating the measure before the August recess. In any case, this morning, Senator Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Forces Committee, sounded reasonably optimistic about the measure’s chance for success:

Levin (D-MI) predicted a filibuster over the Defense Authorization measure over the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal would be highly unlikely this fall. He said he doubts senators who oppose the repeal would block legislation that also approves funding for troops and military benefits, especially since the repeal language is something that can be handled procedurally with a “move to strike” it from the authorization.
Levin said even that isn’t going to fly since Congress is taking what he considers to be a “pretty cautious approach” with the repeal effort. “The votes would not be there to strike that,” Levin told a handful of reporters after the breakfast concluded.

By the way, tonight’s episode of Kathy Griffin’s My Life On The D-List features her trip to Washington to speak at an anti-DADT rally. Timely!

GOP Group Challenges Policy On Gays In Military [AP]
Levin: I Understand Why Gays Are Frustrated By DADT Surveys [TPM]
Pentagon Slams Critics Of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Survey [TPM]
Pentagon Mails Out DADT Surveys [Stars And Stripes]

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