View From Washington: The DADT Deal



But by the time repeal advocates were invited to the White House on
Monday morning to be briefed on a new compromise, a third concession had
been added. There would be no nondiscrimination mandate. In other
words, even after the law is repealed, it will not be replaced at any
point with a policy that explicitly states gays and lesbians are allowed
to serve openly in the military.

It’s not clear exactly when or
why that provision was added, but now that all three concessions are
included in the compromise, in my eyes, it’s the most problematic. Some activists are understandably concerned that the first two concessions give the
Pentagon virtually unfettered control over timing that could lead to a lot of
foot-dragging. But at the very least, a nondiscrimination mandate would
have guaranteed the outcome. With the current proposal, we not only have
no idea when we’ll arrive, we don’t even know what the destination

Some political pragmatists are arguing that sacrificing the
mandate was a necessary evil on the way to getting the approval of Gates
and, ultimately, the final votes needed to pass the measure in the
Senate Armed Services Committee. The bad news is, the votes may have
already been on tap. And the really tragic news is, it’s increasingly
unclear that the compromise has won over any new votes. Apparently, the
statement from Gates’s spokesperson — not even Gates himself — was so
weak that fence-sitters like Brown and Webb weren’t persuaded to throw
their weight behind the effort.

Of course, now that this
amendment is on the table, the only thing worse than passing it would
be not passing it. Why? Because all those lawmakers and strategists who
continually argue that LGBT legislation is toxic will cry “I told you
so” from the rafters if it fails. And a loss on repeal could have an adverse
impact on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, partner benefits, and any other piece of equality
legislation waiting in the wings.

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