Is Congress forcing Obama's hand on 'don't ask, don't tell' repeal?
President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates wanted to move forward with a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' more slowly. But Congress is pressing for a vote this week.
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Even then, there is considerable ambiguity in what rights the legislation will give to gays in the military, says Bon Tempo. The repeal measures currently under consideration would give the military an undetermined amount of time to devise new rules and regulations pertaining to gays in the military.Skip to next paragraph
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“Nobody’s quite sure what’s going to happen [if the repeal is passed]," says Bon Tempo. "That’s why everybody’s calling it a compromise. It doesn’t clarify what rights gays in military will have in the future. It kicks the can down the road" for Congress and the President to deal with later.
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was adopted in 1993 during the Clinton administration. It was intended as a compromise, a policy that both restricted the US military from “witch-hunting” gays and lesbians as well as prohibiting openly gay people from joining the military.
A sea change in public opinion
The sweeping changes Congress is considering seem to reflect a sea change in public opinion on gay relations and gays in the military.
A May 10, 2010, Gallup poll finds broad support for gays in the military: 70 percent of Americans favor allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military, the poll found.
“That’s a number that would have been unimaginable 10 or 15 years ago when Clinton initiated this policy,” says Bon Tempo. “That’s a significant change when you think about it over longer historical term.”
“Support is widespread, even among Republicans,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said in the poll report. “Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans favor allowing openly gay individuals to serve in the military.”
And American public support for gay relations has crossed the symbolic 50 percent threshold, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday.
Fifty-two percent of Americans consider gay and lesbian relations “morally acceptable,” the highest acceptance levels recorded. About 40 percent of Americans approved of gay relations in 2001.
"We are seeing this long-term change in public opinion," says Bon Tempo. "More and more people live in world where gays are part of the political discourse and people are becoming more comfortable with this idea."
- More Americans say 'don't ask, don't tell' for gays should be repealed
- Top Pentagon brass endorse ending 'don't ask, don't tell'
- To repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' Obama has work ahead of him