WASHINGTON – With the Pentagon scheduled on Tuesday to release its 10-month “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” study, LGBT equality advocates are pushing to build even more momentum for the proposed repeal of DADT that many expect to come up for a vote in Congress’ current lame-duck session.
The Pentagon plans to on Tuesday make public its 10-month survey of 400,000 service members and their families on the possible repeal of the military’s anti-gay policy. Some of the nation’s top military leaders are set to testify during Senate hearings on the survey’s results scheduled for Thursday and Friday. According to sources close to the research, the study shows that a majority of service members would have no problem with the lifting of the U.S.’s ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers, but how military leaders will interpret the findings remains unclear. Some leaders have expressed opposition to DADT’s abolition despite early reports on the Pentagon study, which found resistance to repeal most concentrated in the Marine Corps.
Following the release of and hearings on the Pentagon’s study, the Senate is expected to vote on the annual defense appropriations bill to which DADT’s repeal is attached as a provision. Supporters of the ban’s repeal—including members of the LGBT community, President Obama, congressional Democrats and Defense Secretary Robert Gates—see the coming weeks as the last chance in perhaps two years for legislative repeal since Republicans (who largely oppose an end to the policy) will take control of the House in January.
“We believe we still have a shot here — and we’re very conscious of the timeline,” says Trevor Thomas of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “We’re very conscious that incoming House Speaker John Boehner will not move repeal in the House of Representatives for years to come.”
Whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can garner the 60 votes required to overcome a Republican filibuster of the bill remains debatable. The Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the Pentagon’s much-anticipated survey will likely serve as barometers of sentiment on the measure, and as to whether Reid can offer moderate Republicans ample time to debate the legislation and offer amendments.
“I think it will be difficult for the military chiefs to repudiate or reject findings of the report,” says the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s Aubrey Sarvis. “If they cannot support the process that was used as well as the integrity of the Pentagon report, I fail to understand how they can continue to lead the service they represent.”