Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: New Pressure for Change


In the wake of this month's presidential elections, there has been a lot of interest and hope that, once sworn in, President-elect Barack Obama would change the military's policies toward openly queer service in the armed forces.

Yesterday, 104 retired military officers signed a document calling for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

With more than 11,000 men and women drummed out of the services since DADT became policy under Bill Clinton, DADT has been a disaster, in terms of military service, military readiness (in a time of war!) and in terms of civil rights.

Retired Rear Admiral Charles Larson (4 Stars) opposes DADT and was among those signing the document calling for change.  Larson wants to see President Obama work with the Pentagon to change the policy and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. This seems to jibe with a new Obama transition team webpage that outlines much of the president-elect's policies as they relate to issues facing queer America. In that website, Obama calls for working "with military leaders to repeal the current policy."

It looks like Obama is taking a careful, but unmistakable route toward getting rid of DADT.  It won't be an executive order, signed Day One of his presidency. And it shouldn't be, as that would be met with massive resistance. It should be handled as Rear Admiral Larson points out, with consultation and partnership by the Pentagon, so that it will work. 

Truman declared, through executive order, that the armed services must integrate.  But it took Eisenhower, a retired general turned president, to actually make it a reality, by working in detail with the Pentagon to make the necessary changes. Obama would do well to listen to Larson and to emulate Ike.

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