convening the first congressional hearing on the military's
''don't ask, don't tell'' policy since its enactment 15
years ago. But they acknowledge there's no chance of
repealing it this year.
only hope of success in the near term, they say, is if
Barack Obama is elected president.
''We need a new
president in order to get this passed'' -- specifically,
a President Obama, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California
Democrat, told reporters Tuesday on a conference
call convened by the Human Rights Campaign and the
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Obama wants to
repeal ''don't ask, don't tell'' and will work with
military leaders to get it done, his campaign website says.
Republican opponent John McCain supports ''don't ask,
legislation to overturn the policy has 133 cosponsors. But
key Democrats, including House Armed Services
Committee chairman Ike Skelton of
Missouri, support the status quo, and there are no
plans to bring the bill to a vote this year.
Tauscher said she
has no interest in a ''show vote'' before the political
climate is right for repeal. "I'm not willing to take a
House vote with no Senate companion bill," she said,
adding that if the vote were taken
today, "I actually believe that we could get to
218" -- the number of votes needed to pass the legislation
in the House.
hearing Wednesday in the Armed Services Committee's military
personnel panel is meant to draw attention to the issue and
to the growing public sentiment in favor of gay people
serving openly in the military, Tauscher said.
Washington Post-ABC News poll over the
weekend, 75% of respondents said openly gay people
should be allowed to serve, up from 62% in early 2001,
and 44% in 1993.
''We believe that
this is a good first step to have this hearing, but we
don't believe that this bill will come forward until we have
a new president,'' Tauscher said.
Even if Obama
wins, overturning ''don't ask, don't tell'' might not be
his first order of business.
The policy was
enacted shortly after Democrat Bill Clinton became
president and sought to make good on a campaign pledge to
open the military to gays. After a divisive debate
that gave fuel to social conservatives and little
political benefit to Clinton, ''don't ask, don't
tell'' was the result. It was intended to keep the military
from asking recruits their sexual orientation and to
prevent service members from being openly gay.
Obama's key task would have to be trying to end the Iraq war
while maintaining military and public support. Despite the
seemingly strong promise on his campaign site, in a
recent interview with The Advocate, Obama stopped
short of promising to lead the way for change, saying
only that he can ''reasonably see'' a repeal of the
current ban if elected president.
hearing, convened by subcommittee chair Rep. Susan Davis, a
Democrat from California, includes three former military
officials who want to overturn ''don't ask, don't
tell'' and two witnesses who oppose gays serving in
Pentagon official or military officer was invited to
testify, Tauscher said, because ''it's a waste of
time.... They always have the same answer,'' which is
that they'll follow the law. (Eric Werner, AP with
additional reporting by The Advocate)