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Reid Presses White House on DADT


Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid is turning up the heat on the White House and the Pentagon to take action on changing the "don't ask, don't tell" law that bans gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

In letters dated September 24, which were first reported by The Huffington Post and obtained by The Advocate, Reid writes to President Barack Obama and Defense secretary Robert Gates, "As Congress considers future legislative action, we believe it would be helpful to hear your views on the policy. I would therefore request that you bring to Congress your recommendations on DADT." (The letter to Secretary Gates can be viewed here.)

Reid also details the cases of Lt. Dan Choi, an Arabic linguist who was discharged under the policy earlier this year, and Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, an Air Force fighter pilot who is in the process of being discharged, and requests that Gates and President Obama "review" their cases.

He adds, "Unfortunately, it has become clear that a number of individuals with skills essential to winning our struggle against terrorism and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan -- such as Arabic linguists and intelligence analysts -- have been forced to leave the Armed Forces as a result of the current policy. At a time when we are fighting two wars, I do not believe we can afford to discharge any qualified individual who is willing to serve our country."

A spokesperson for Majority Leader Reid said he had not received a response from either President Obama or Secretary Gates.

A White House spokesperson said, "The president appreciates the majority leader's letter and looks forward to working with him and other members of Congress as they move towards a legislative repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.'" Last week, the White House declined to comment on whether they were discussing introduction of a repeal bill with any senators.

The Pentagon did not respond to inquiries in time for the posting of this article.

The letters are the latest addition in a string of news in the past week that signal signs of life for changing the policy.

A Pentagon journal called Joint Force Quarterly published a report this week that unequivocally called for repeal of the policy, saying, "After a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly."

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the repeal lobby group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said Tuesday that he believed a repeal bill in the Senate could surface in "the next two to three weeks."

"Senator [Edward] Kennedy wanted to be the lead sponsor in the Senate and he felt very strongly that the Senate bill should be bipartisan," Sarvis said at a panel discussion hosted by the American Constitution Society. "SLDN also shares that view. We think it should be a bipartisan introduction and we along with many others are still working toward that. But a number of other Democrats are ready for bill introduction and I suspect we may soon have a Senate bill introduced."

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