WASHINGTON – A proposal to step up the repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military but still allow the Pentagon time – perhaps even years – to implement new policies won the White House’s backing on Monday after administration officials met with gay rights activists.
The White House budget office sent a letter supporting the proposal to remove the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” law even as the Pentagon continues a review of the system. Implementation of policy for gays serving openly would still require the approval of President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen. How long implementation might take is not known, but the proposed amendment would have no effect on current practices.
“The proposed amendment will allow for completion of the comprehensive review, enable the Department of Defense to assess the results of the review, and ensure that the implementation of the repeal is consistent with standards of military readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruiting and retention,” budget chief Peter Orszag wrote in identical evening letters to Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Murphy, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and Michigan Sen. Carl Levin – the Democrats leading the push for repeal.
Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, was expected to introduce the legislative proposal today.
“Without a repeal vote by Congress this year, the Pentagon’s hands are tied and the armed forces will be forced to continue adhering to the discriminatory ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
The White House had hoped lawmakers would delay action until Pentagon officials had completed their study so fellow Democrats would not face criticism that they moved too quickly or too far ahead of public opinion in this election year. Instead, administration officials recognized it could not stop Congress in its effort to repeal the 1993 ban and joined the negotiations.
Hours after activists met at the White House, top Democratic lawmakers met on Capitol Hill and approved the final version of a brokered deal that adds the repeal to the annual defense spending bill.
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