Though the Obama’s administration has made repeated promises to take up the issue of repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the much-debated ban on openly gay men and women serving in the military, no tangible progress has been made.
Even before the inauguration, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs suggested that ending the policy would not become a priority right away, adding that Obama will be “focused first and foremost on jump-starting this economy,” according to the Associated Press.
Still, LGBT activists have criticized the administration for taking too much time with the repeal, and recent polls show that DADT is losing popular support. Last November over 100 retired admirals and generals signed an open letter to Obama calling for an end to the ban. A recently formed petition with the same goal, from the Courage Campaign and CREDO Mobile, already has over 96,000 signatures.
Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell issued a statement on May 21 suggesting the Obama administration was having talks at the Pentagon to repeal DADT, which has been in place since the beginning of the Clinton administration in the early 1990s.
Morrell said that President Obama is committed to the repeal and that “he has also been clear that he is committed to do it in a way that is least disruptive to our troops, especially given that they have been simultaneously waging two wars for six years now.”
Yet, in a press conference held a week later, Gibbs once more dodged questions about the ban. In response to one reporter’s question about DADT, Gibbs reiterated that President Obama “does not think the policy is working in the national interests,” yet he still would not give a specific timeframe for when systematic change would occur.
A reporter from Politics Daily told Gibbs that the chairman of the subcommittee who is in charge of the bill to repeal DADT had told him that a vote on the policy would not take place for another year. Gibbs responded, “Sometimes the legislative process doesn’t move that quickly.”
In response to criticisms that President Obama is letting Congress deal with DADT instead of taking executive action to end the policy, authorities— including Gibbs—have been insisting that the president does not have the power to repeal a law.
However, according to a study conducted in May by military law experts at the University of California in Santa Barbara, the president does have the power to issue an executive order halting the operation of DADT.
Experts explained, “Congress grants the President authority to suspend the separation of military members during any period of national emergency in which members of a reserve component are serving involuntarily on active duty.”