The Next DADT Hurdles



Although “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal advocates were heartened last week by votes that attached a repeal measure to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, they are gearing up for the next battle — the Senate floor.

The full House voted to approve the defense authorization bill with repeal, but in the Senate, the measure was attached in the Senate Armed Services Committee and awaits approval by the entire chamber. Advocates say those who oppose ending the gay ban could filibuster the entire bill — which would keep it from being considered on the Senate floor and require 60 votes to overcome — or once the bill is being debated on the Senate floor, they could offer amendments that either strip out the repeal language or dilute it.

“Clearly, there are a lot of unknowns,” said Fred Sainz, vice president of communications at the Human Rights Campaign. “This is a moment by moment situation where we will be living with our hearts in our throats until the president signs the bill into law.”

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, for one, has said he would support a filibuster of the bill, but Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, doubted that mounting a filibuster of the whole bill based on the repeal provision alone would have broad appeal even among Republicans.

Sarvis explained that blocking funding for the troops overseas due to the potentiality that gays and lesbians might be allowed to serve openly in the military would not sit well with most voters.

“That is very tough to explain back home,” he said. “Providing funding levels for the nation’s security is one of Congress’s fundamental responsibilities to the American people.”