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'Don't ask, don't tell': Repeal signed, sealed, but when will it be delivered?

At signing, Obama says repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' will 'strengthen our national security.' But the lack of a clear timetable for implementation is already frustrating some gay rights advocates.

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From that point, “don’t ask, don’t tell” will still be in effect for 60 more days, during which time a soldier who declares his homosexuality technically could still be thrown out of the Army, says Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan.

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A move this week by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to add an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have required the heads of the Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Navy to also “certify” military readiness was defeated after an objection by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) Conn., who supported ending the ban.

Critics of the repeal have pointed out that this may be a good idea since there is more resistance to lifting the ban in some service branches than others – roughly 60 percent of Marines in combat units were concerned that the new legislation would affect cohesion in the Corps, according to a Pentagon report released last month.

As a result, some have suggested that the ban be lifted in, for example, the Navy, whose top commander told Congress earlier this month that he supports repeal, before it goes into effect for the Marines. Marine Corps commandant Gen. James Amos told reporters last week that he fears the repeal could be a dangerous “distraction” for combat troops during a time of war.

Senior Pentagon officials say, however, that this is unlikely to happen. Regardless, military commanders emphasize that now that the repeal is law, they will salute their civilian leaders smartly.

'Discipline and loyalty'

“I, and the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, will personally lead this effort, thus ensuring the respect and dignity due all Marines,” said Gen. Amos in a statement he released following Saturday’s Senate vote to repeal. “On this matter, we look forward to further demonstrating to the American people the discipline and loyalty that have been the hallmark of the United States Marine Corps for over 235 years.”

For his part, Mr. Gates said he is well aware that the White House is watching the Pentagon closely "to ensure that we don't dawdle," he told reporters this month.

Top Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson offered his own assessment this month on how long implementation should take. “I think the answer would be not fast, but not drawn out or protracted either. I think that it could become counterproductive for unit cohesion, good order, and discipline if this process were drawn out over an extended period of time.”

IN PICTURES: The US Marine Corps


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