Many of my gay friends (and straight friends who are supportive of gay rights) are cheerfully proclaiming that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed by the U.S. Senate on Saturday. Hell, even gay rights organizations and news headlines are saying it’s been repealed. Unfortunately, IT HAS NOT BEEN REPEALED!
Now, before people accuse me of being a Grinch and sticking to technicalities, there really is a very important distinction to be made here.
The House of Representatives and the Senate have both passed legislation that would authorize the eventual repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy prohibiting gays and lesbians from openly serving in the Armed Forces. The President is presumably going to sign the bill into law early this week.
But it’s still not over at that point.
Before DADT is actually repealed, there’s a certification process that has to happen. The top military brass at the Pentagon has to confirm that they have reviewed the findings and recommendations of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and are confident that they can implement an orderly repeal of DADT without negatively impacting military readiness, and the President has to confirm that he agrees that we’re ready to go. And after that, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period.
Senator Susan Collins, a key Republican supporter of the repeal legislation, was cautiously optimistic, saying that the eventual repeal would take “months, not years” to be finalized. Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued a statement shortly after the Senate vote saying that he would begin the process immediately, but that certification wouldn’t come until after “careful consultation” with top military commanders.
The upshot of all of this? “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t quite dead yet, but Congress has officially pulled it off of life support. It will wither away and die over the next few months, and we can finally put this behind us.
But until then, gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines need to stay the hell in the closet. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still the law of the land, for now. It would be a damned shame for anyone in the Armed Forces to get a little overeager and come out of the military closet too soon.