DADT Repeal Gathers Steam on Hill

Lieberman to introduce Senate bill to repeal policy; new report highlights positive experience of American allies with integrating gay soldiers

A week that already was shaping up to be a busy one for the efforts to repeal the ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy took an unexpected veer on Monday morning when the New York Daily News reported that Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) will be ”taking the lead on repeal” of the policy.

The Daily News column, which was written by The New Republic‘s openly gay contributing editor Jamie Kirchick, soon found confirmation from Lieberman’s office.

”I will be proud to be a sponsor of the important effort to enable patriotic gay Americans to defend our national security and our founding values of freedom and opportunity,” Lieberman said in the statement. ”I have opposed the current policy of preventing gay Americans from openly serving in the military since its enactment in 1993.”

Roll Call reported that ”Lieberman’s move makes the chance for bipartisan support more likely” because of his close working relationship on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). The two already serve as co-sponsors of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligation Act, which Lieberman introduced, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which Collins introduced along with three other colleagues.

At the same time, The New York Times reported on an advance copy it had received of a new report from the Palm Center, previously mentioned at Metro Weekly, investigating ”Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer.”

In a copy obtained by Metro Weekly, the study’s lead author, Nathaniel Frank, lays out the purpose of the report.

”This study brings together the results of all the major research on gays in foreign militaries and updates that research to the present,” Frank writes, ”focusing on the experiences of Britain, Canada, and other English-speaking nations with relatively similar cultures to that of the U.S.”

The report details the 25 countries that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, and looks in-depth at the impact of lifting a ban on gay service in Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa and India.

The Palm Center report also addresses ”the relevance of studying foreign militaries,” perhaps responding to the comments of opponents to lifting the ban today like former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), though the study notes that the relevance (or irrelevance) of foreign militaries ”has played a prominent role in debates about gays in the military since President Clinton tried to compel the Pentagon to eliminate its gay ban in 1993.”

At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, Santorum said, ”We are not like, people compare us to Israel, that Israel has had gays serve in the military for a long time. That’s because everyone in Israel serves in the military.”

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness likewise dismissed the experience of foreign militaries at a news conference on Feb. 18, citing the size of our military and the extent of our engagements as among the reasons why comparisons were inapt.

Frank tears directly at the argument itself, noting, ”The relevancy claim simply states that the successful transition experiences of foreign militaries which share sufficiently similar variables to the U.S. military suggests that, if the U.S. were to lift its ban, American military performance would similarly not decline.”

Moreover, he writes that ”the U.S. military itself repeatedly has commissioned research that invites such comparisons, at times incorporating the lessons learned from these other militaries” – even in considering its policy regarding gay service.

The Palm Center report also details U.S. engagement with foreign militaries that allow openly lesbian and gay soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

”Many of these military operations were not only reliant on the presence of smaller forces that allow openly gay service, but were fought together with those forces,” Frank writes. ”The presence of openly gay service members in multinational military units offers first-hand evidence that serving with known gays does not undermine effectiveness.”

The report, due to be released Tuesday morning, coincides with the first of several hearings of military branch leaders before the Senate Armed Services Committee in conjunction with the budget process. Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has made clear that those testifying will be asked about their view on the repeal.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh, as well as Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey, Jr., are slated to testify Tuesday, while testimony from the Navy and Marine Corps leadership is to come Thursday. McHugh has voiced support for the repeal following his nomination by President Barack Obama in 2009, and Casey is said to have supported the study that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for earlier this month before the committee.

Thursday’s testimony, however, will include that of Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, who is said to have ”strenuously opposed the change in policy during private discussions with the other chiefs,” according to a report in The Washington Times.

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