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Senate Still Responsible for Repeal

Senate Still Responsible for Repeal


There is plenty to praise in Judge Virginia A. Phillips's ruling yesterday declaring that "don't ask, don't tell" is unconstitutional. Judge Phillips rightly concluded that the policy has a "direct and deleterious effect" on our military's capabilities, including the financial costs of the ban and the harm done by losing mission-critical personnel. She criticized its inconsistent enforcement, which often involves delaying discharges until after gay and lesbian service members have completed their deployments. This is a verdict that leaves no doubt: There is no legitimate justification for "don't ask, don't tell."

Let's take a moment to pause and congratulate the perseverance, foresight, and chutzpah of the Log Cabin Republicans who filed the case, the legal team that pursued it on a pro bono basis, and the plaintiffs whose stories served as the heart of the complaint. (Disclosure: After originally opposing the lawsuit when it was first filed, I ended up serving as an expert witness for the plaintiffs).

Now all eyes must turn to the Senate, which returns to Washington next week. Senators will have a short window to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal measure already passed by the House. If the Senate passes the bill in September, "don't ask, don't tell" will fade into history shortly thereafter. If not, then we're looking at a long road ahead.

Yet Senate majority leader Harry Reid still has not scheduled a floor vote on the act, and his spokesman has tepidly stated to The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld that a vote is "on the list of things we would like to do in the next few weeks." A failure to vote on the bill prior to October 8 would push it into the post-midterms lame-duck period; in that case its chances of passage would drop to "50-50," according to one of Eleveld's sources.

There is no defense for this lack of commitment from Senate leadership. Yesterday's ruling confirmed yet again that "don't ask, don't tell" is a policy that must be ended for the good of our service members. Harry Reid and the rest of his colleagues must now decide whether they will heed the court's findings and ensure that "don't ask, don't tell" meets its end next year or whether they will shirk their responsibility.

Log Cabin Republicans v. USA
deserves our praise, but we should not let our celebration of this ruling distract our focus from the Senate. It is our elected officials, not the court, who ultimately must put an end to "don't ask, don't tell."

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