July 22 2011 8:10 AM ET
The president signed certification for repeal of "don't ask,
don't tell" today and sent it to Congress. Now another waiting period begins.
A 60-day waiting period follows before the policy is finally
dropped, meaning that DADT would no longer be enforced on Sept. 20. A recent order from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
already bars the military from further discharges and investigations
under the policy.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, cheered the certification and looked ahead to next steps.
“Today’s certification for all practical purposes marks the end of a discriminatory policy," Levin said in a statement. "There is no way to justify a policy that requires our young men and women in uniform to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. Sixty days from now, these service members will be able to serve openly, without living in constant fear of being outed and kicked out of the military."
News of the historic change was delivered to senators and advocacy
groups before being made public. The White House called to share the
news with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, according to
executive director Aubrey Sarvis. And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand reacted on Twitter, saying she was "thrilled" about repeal's
certification. "Putting this corrosive policy behind us will strengthen
America both militarily & morally," she wrote.
Defense secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen were prepared to recommend repeal certification of “don’t ask, don’t tell” during a meeting with the president today, Defense officials confirmed with The Advocate. Panetta, who was sworn in as Defense secretary three weeks ago following the retirement of Secretary Robert Gates, was ready to report to the president that lifting the ban on openly gay service members is consistent with standards of military readiness and unit cohesion.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” will be history as of September 20, defense officials confirmed at a Friday Pentagon news conference.
Certification of DADT repeal, signed into law over seven months ago, will allow gay service members to serve openly in the armed forces after a 60-day waiting period is completed, as mandated by Congress.
Officials acknowledged that gay service members will not have access to the same benefits as their straight counterparts — a result, they said, of the Defense of Marriage Act. Nor will they be protected by a nondiscrimination policy on the basis of sexual orientation, a caveat criticized by many advocates during the DADT repeal process.
But Maj. Gen. Steven A. Hummer, Chief of Staff of the Repeal Implementation Team, confirmed the following:
-Statements regarding sexual orientation will no longer bar potential recruits from service
-Service members who were discharged under “don’t ask, don’ tell” can apply for reentry into the armed forces
-Commanders cannot create separate facilities, such as bathrooms, on the basis of sexual orientation
-Training on repeal of the policy will continue during the 60-day waiting period following certification
“This thoughtful and steady approach to educating and preparing the force has laid the groundwork for a smooth and orderly transition,” Hummer said Friday.
The Pentagon’s insistence of that orderly transition has been a refrain in Justice Department arguments regarding the Log Cabin Republicans' court challenge to the policy, which continues. Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit lifted the stay on a district court injunction against enforcement of DADT in the case; the court later partially reinstated the stay, though it continues to bar discharges based on the policy.
During the Pentagon news conference, Defense Department general counsel Jeh C. Johnson reiterated the government’s position that the Log Cabin case will be rendered moot once the repeal process is complete — an argument that Log Cabin has consistently rejected. Oral arguments in the appeal of the case before the Ninth Circuit are scheduled for Sept. 1, nearly three weeks before the 60-day period expires.
“American service members today remain subject to investigations and discharges under DADT and its implementing regulations, solely because of their sexual orientation,” Log Cabin attorneys wrote to the court Thursday. “Log Cabin’s members, and all members of the military, retain today a live controversy with the government over their constitutional rights.”
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