Activists Question Lack of Action on DADT

National security adviser Gen. James Jones has suggested the future of "don't ask, don't tell" is unclear, prompting activists to wonder why the White House isn't focused on repealing the ban on gays in the military.

BY Kerry Eleveld

May 10 2009 11:00 PM ET

"If I were still advising the president, I'd tell him that it's essential, in order to make it clear where he stands and where the Democratic Party stands, that there be a bill repealing the ban introduced in the Senate right away," said Richard Socarides, who served six years in the Clinton administration and was a special assistant to the president on LGBT issues. "The fact is, it should have been done back in January. If the White House is telling Congress something else, well, there's no excuse for that. They are ceding policy control of the issue to the military."

Several LGBT lobbyists on the Hill have also suggested that it's impossible to build support for repeal without a bill.

"You can't go to lobby and say, 'Would you support this theoretically?'" said one lobbyist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I know the top 20 excuses that staffers give and one of the top ones is, 'You're asking me to support something I haven't seen.'"

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of SLDN, indicated that a bill was unlikely to be introduced without support from the president. "Congress will likely not act without a nod from the commander in chief. Congress often defers military personnel matters to him. And Obama is the ultimate enforcer of 'don't ask, don't tell,'" he said.

A Democratic strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity pressed the point a little harder: "No one wants to push this without the backing of the White House," he said.

But White House spokesman Shin Inouye said President Obama will work to overturn the policy. "The president has made clear that he wants 'don't ask, don't tell' repealed and he will work with the Pentagon and with Congress to make sure this happens," Inouye said.

To date, the White House has not given any indication of the steps that might be taken to repeal the policy or what a timeline might look like. LGBT groups appear to be in the dark too.

"The administration is probably working through a lot of different options right now, and we're interested to see what is the most expeditious and sustainable one," Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said during an interview last Thursday. "They could be working on a 'don't ask, don't tell' strategy that would take 18 months. I trust that this is something that's being worked on and they're looking at something more comprehensive and long-term than just putting out a statement [of support]."

Some activists, frustrated by what they view as a lack of action on the policy, are calling on the president to issue an executive order that would indefinitely suspend investigations and prosecutions under "don't ask, don't tell" while the military conducts a review of the policy.

Tags: Politics

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