The Implications of Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal

The legal, political, and military meanings

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The Senate voted to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Saturday by 65 to 31, with eight Republicans joining against the Clinton-era policy. The bill will go to President Obama for his signature next week and is expected to be implemented by the Pentagon in 2011. President Obama has made ending the policy a priority since his 2008 presidential campaign but had struggled to see it through. Though he had the support of the military, Republicans successfully blocked several attempts at repeal. Obama infuriated many supporters with his failure to break the delays and especially when the White House actually pushed to have DADT reinstated after a federal judge ruled it to be unconstitutional. But now Democrats have finally won this long-sought victory for civil rights. Here's what repeal will mean.

  • Implementation Matters  In the Atlantic, Ben Heineman gives "a brief look at how the Pentagon proposes to handle some of those controversial issues raised about gay and lesbian integration." He looks over the plans for everything from protecting the rights of gay servicemembers to addressing the religious objections of those within the military opposed to repeal. But the bottom line is leadership matters. "The key to successful implementation is, of course, leadership because the military is a command and control organization."
  • Vindication of Obama's Political Strategy  The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan chronicles, "Like 2009's removal of the HIV ban, which was as painstakingly slow but thereby much more entrenched, this process took time. Without the Pentagon study, it wouldn't have passed. Without Obama keeping Lieberman inside the tent, it wouldn't have passed. Without the critical relationship between Bob Gates and Obama, it wouldn't have passed. It worked our last nerve; we faced at one point a true nightmare of nothing ... for years. And then we pulled behind this president, making it his victory and the country's victory, as well as ours."
  • Will This Ease Tension Between White House and Liberals?  Not just because repeal was a major priority of the left, but because it shows Obama's strategy wasn't the "betrayal" some thought it to be. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent writes, "Today's victory stands as partial vindication of his strategy. Getting the tax deal wrapped up early made the time for repeal, with only days left in the lame-duck session. This is an important victory for the White House in another way. It will quiet all the talk about Obama's supposed 'triangulating,' because it demonstrates -- for the time being, anyway -- that even as the White House sees a need to trade away some core liberal priorities to compromise with Repubilcans, Obama seems to want to bring the left along with him, to whatever degree he can. This will make it tougher to argue that Obama's strategy is to deliberately alienate the left in order to win back the middle of the country."
  • Legal Fight Not Over for Gay Rights in Military  Andrew Cohen writes in The Atlantic that this "doesn't mean the end of two-tiered justice for gay or lesbian service members." There's another federal law in their way. "now that the Pentagon will finally be recognizing the existence of such service members in its ranks, it will also as a matter of law and logic be recognizing the existence of same-sex partners or same-sex spouses. But those folks are barred by the federal Defense of Marriage Act from receiving some of the benefits that opposite-sex partners or opposite-sex spouses would receive from the military."
  • Ivy Colleges Should Reinstate ROTC  The Weekly Standard's William Kristol notes that some Ivy League colleges had blocked reserve officer training corps programs because of DADT. He says that the incoming Republican Congressmen should "take an interest in ensuring that discrimination against ROTC on college campuses ends. ... One trusts the presidents and trustees of colleges that have been keeping ROTC at arm's length, allegedly because of DADT, will move posthaste to ensure a hearty welcome and full equality for ROTC at their universities." Politico's Ben Smith reports that they are doing exactly that.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.