In a stunning announcement, OutServe and Knights Out said Monday that they would support severing "don't ask, don't tell" repeal from the defense authorization act if it would help the bill pass.
The two pro-repeal groups made the announcement as Congress returned for a lame-duck session and all hopes for ending the military ban focused on the Senate, where an attempt to pass the defense bill with the repeal provision failed in September. Sen. John McCain has vowed to lead a Republican filibuster of another attempt to repeal the policy in the few weeks remaining in the session.
According to a news release from the Palm Center, the announcement by OutServe and Knights Out, which Politico reported early Monday morning, said that nothing should interfere with military funding, although the groups pledged to continue to fight for repeal in the current legislative session.
"There is nothing more important than loyalty to those with whom we serve," said the statement. "This means ensuring that no one issue interferes with funding the courageous and selfless work our fellow service members are doing around the world. Therefore, on behalf of the more than 1,000 active duty gay and lesbian service members and 500 gay and lesbian veterans we represent, we respectfully urge Congress to pass the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act to fund the aircraft, weapons, combat vehicles, ammunition and promised pay-raises for all troops, whether or not the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' is included."
Alexander Nicholson, the executive director of Servicemembers United, a pro-repeal group representing gay and lesbian service members, roundly denounced the proposal by OutServe and Knights Out as a "nonstarter."
"It has been the position of the organizations that actually work on repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' to strongly oppose stripping the repeal language out of the defense authorization bill," he said. "That position has been based on the reality of the vote count, and those facts on the ground here in Washington have not changed. Servicemembers United, which is the nation's largest gay troop and veteran group by far, strongly agrees with the White House that stripping DADT out of NDAA is simply a nonstarter."
OutServe is a network of approximately 1,000 active duty servicemembers. Knights Out is an organization of West Point alumni, staff, and faculty members who support the right to serve openly.