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Lieberman Likely to Lead Effort to Repeal DADT?

Well, maybe the White House is finally taking the first steps toward repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.  According to the Advocate,

Shortly after President Barack Obama pledged Saturday to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Administration’s highest-ranking LGBT official said the White House is speaking with certain senators about strategies for repealing the policy — specifically Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“On ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ this administration is talking directly to the Hill — we are in direct discussions with Senator Lieberman,” John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, told The Advocate.

A spokesman for Senator Lieberman confirmed that the senator had been speaking to the White House about the bill.  “Senator Lieberman has had discussions with representatives of the Administration and others on the best way to reverse this policy, which he has opposed since it was first proposed in 1993,” said Marshall Wittmann, Lieberman’s press secretary.

Smart move to work with Lieberman.  Given the Connecticut Senator’s long-time support for a robust military, it’s makes a lot of sense to have him lead the effort to repeal this counterproductive measure.  More perhaps than any other member of the Democratic caucus, Lieberman enjoys the respect of the military and Republicans.  He can better frame repeal not as a gay rights’ issue but as a military issue, that the ban reduces the pool of recruits from which our armed services can draw.

That the Administration is in talk with Lieberman suggests a real commitment to repealing the ban.  It would be better if they had a timetable, to prompt more expeditious action.  With a solid majority even of conservatives favoring repeal, the time to act is now.

In addition to Lieberman, I suggest the Administration reach out to others who like the Senator, advocates of repeal who enjoy respect in more conservative and pro-military circles.  Their input may help the President frame a case which avoids the fate which greeted the last Democratic President’s attempt to allow gay people to serve openly in our armed forces.  To that end, they may find themselves talking to a number of individual like talk show host Mike Gallagher, who are otherwise at odds with the Administration.

The more conservatives speaking out in favor of repeal, the more quickly we will see it done.  And the Administration is reaching out to an erstwhile opponent.  Lieberman endorsed the President’s rival in last fall’s campaign.

It is a good sign that they are talking to Senator Lieberman, a step, albeit a small one in the right direction.



  1. I’d like to ask a question. I do not in any way want to offend anyone, I’d just like an honest answer.

    Why do gays dislike ‘don’t ask don’t tell’?

    From my perspective as a heterosexual, I don’t see the issue with it. It makes no difference to me if a solider is gay or straight. I just want someone willing to fight for our country. I don’t understand what sexual orientation has to do with it. It’s none of the military’s business. I don’t judge my friends based on their sexual orientation, why should our government.

    However, I’m sure I’m missing an important aspect of this.

    Comment by Aaron — October 13, 2009 @ 12:11 pm - October 13, 2009

  2. Aaron,

    Let me take a stab at this.

    Way back when (the 70’s and before) being gay was considered blackmail material and thus a security risk. Many people served (and serve) with honor and distinction but don’t come out until after the fact. DADT means that a JAG, bucking for attention can’t launch a witch hunt, but the gay service members cannot be open about their orientation. While it doesn’t seem like much to you or me, it is important.

    But it is, in many aspects. A quote I read goes like this, “Privates can’t marry, Sergeants may marry, Captains must marry.” (not exact) Because most ranking officers are ‘career’ types, there’s a visibility problem when the single officer, with his lack of spouce/gf/etc. sticking out like a Mormon at the FSF. While a gay serviceman could now handle a blackmail request with ‘yeah? and?’ it would still be a career ender just not with a dishonorable discharge.

    Society is ready for a change. The issue becomes is the military able to handle the trade offs of openly gay servicemen vs. possible impact on morale, logistics, etc. The Military is not a normal ‘society’. I rely on Dan and Bruce to provide me a forum here to write, interact and snark. I don’t rely on them for my life. So even folks like me who think that the military can handle openly serving gay members, will say this is an issue for the Generals, not the armchair generals.

    I’ll let ColoradoPatriot, Julie, or any of the others who have actually served (instead of armchair generals like me) correct me where I’m wrong.

    Comment by The_Livewire — October 13, 2009 @ 12:27 pm - October 13, 2009

  3. I do wonder if Lieberman is being held out as a sacrifical lamb (irony intended). If there’s a backlash President Two-face throws him under the bus, using the fact that he’s not a ‘democrat’ to buy some distance.

    Comment by The_Livewire — October 13, 2009 @ 12:31 pm - October 13, 2009

  4. Aaron wrote:

    I don’t understand what sexual orientation has to do with it. It’s none of the military’s business.

    Hammer hits nail on head. By military law, it is my understanding that both gays and straights can be thrown out for having sexual relations with another military member. It rarely happens for straight soldiers, will always happen for gay soldiers. But the biggest difference is that a straight soldier will NEVER get booted from the Navy if he goes into a straight bar, a gay soldier will if caught at a gay bar. A straight soldier will NEVER get discharged if the CO finds out he’s straight, a gay soldier most likely will if the CO finds out he’s gay.

    You’re right, sexual orientation SHOULD NOT be any of the military’s business. But under DADT, it is.

    Hope that answered the question.

    PS. I came to terms / became at easy with being gay during the late 80. I lived in San Diego at the time and knew many a gay soldier. When DADT was implemented, they were relieved at first, thought things would get better. They didn’t. The rate of discharges actually increased after DADT became the new standard.

    PPS. I think many would be surprised at the number of gay individuals that serve in the military, and the fact that their brothers-in-arms who serve side by side don’t care, as long as the job is done. Most military personnel that I knew back confirmed that their fellow soldiers knew and didn’t care. They just had to make sure the higher ups – those not around the day-to-day regiments found out. Only a few that I knew thought that their orientation was a secret to all they served with.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 13, 2009 @ 2:09 pm - October 13, 2009

  5. Livewire wrote…

    I’ll let ColoradoPatriot, Julie, or any of the others who have actually served (instead of armchair generals like me) correct me where I’m wrong.

    I’d like to relate my thoughts on this, if you all will indulge me…

    Let me state at the outset that I served as a commissioned officer in a Pershing II mid-range nuclear weapons battery in W. Germany from the date they arrived in January 1984 to just after the final PII was removed from NATO deployment as part of the INF Treaty in 1991. I am also a gay man, but in those days, I was of course in the closet.

    I will confess that as an officer, I cannot attest fully as to how the enlisted personnel under my command conducted themselves once they were off-duty and either in their barracks or off-base. I do know that they were housed in far closer and less private quarters than the single officers, who had the luxury of studio apartment-like accommodations in the bachelor officer’s quarters (BOQ). While I’m quite certain that the occasional enlisted man (or woman) “entertained” a person of the opposite sex (perhaps placing a coat hanger on the doorknob to warn off intruding roommates), I cannot recall a single instance where such behavior resulted in an Article 15 proceeding. As for the bachelor officers, I can state unequivocally that while one or more of us may have engaged in similar behavior (absent the hanger, of course), the standard of discretion to which we were held prevented yours truly from ever considering such a rendezvous.

    However, that isn’t to say I remained celibate during my tour. I did have several relationships at that time, but with civilians. Even had I been straight, the notion of sleeping with a fellow officer (enlisted personnel were BEYOND off-limits), and having that relationship made public, was a career killer for what it would do to my command efficacy. No, yours truly spent weekends either hidden away in my boyfriend’s apartment downtown, or traveling 50 km’s away to the German countryside.

    Having said all that then, any service member, homosexual or hetero, regardless of when they served, can tell you who among their ranks they believe were gay or lesbian. Sometimes such conjecture was accurate, and sometimes not. In my case, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody ever suspected me of being gay, nor was I ever confronted thusly. I will also go so far as to say that if any of my fellow officers were gay, they were as good at concealing it as I was. No disrespect intended, but those enlisted personnel who may have been gay seemed far less concerned with public perception; particularly the females. I apologize, but that was, at the time, a matter of fact. In any case, I am not aware of single instance where someone under my command had either been discovered engaging in a homosexual relationship, nor discharged for same. While I personally prosecuted nearly twenty field-grade Article 15’s (resulting in the less than- or dishonorable discharge of four soldiers) none were for offenses related to fraternization or homosexual activity.

    None of the above is to say that these things didn’t happen – only to relate my personal experience, and to give an explanation as to why I remain so thoroughly conflicted as to whether or not DADT should be repealed.

    To be frank, while I’m not particularly fond of the policy, I have to confess that even had I able to have served as an openly gay officer, I doubt I would have. Of course, I would have served, but as an officer, I did not have the luxury of being seen by my subordinates as having any sort of personal life, let alone a sexual one. However, among my fellow officers, many of whom I considered to be the finest men and women I’ve ever known, I will say that I wish I hadn’t felt the need to disappear every weekend. This is part of the DADT conundrum: enlisted personnel are permitted, to some extent, to carry on relationships with each other and maintain those as common knowledge. The officers, on the other hand, are expected to carry themselves with a sense of aloofness and superiority. In other words (and I apologize for being crass), officers are asexual beings who’s excrement lacks any detectable odor.

    But today, we live in a far different world. For better or worse, our young people are coming out far earlier than many of us ever would’ve considered, and are being met with a degree of acceptance I, for one, am somewhat envious of (anyone else remember “Sidney Schorr”?). Having said that, I am indeed curious as to how an openly gay enlisted person would fare in today’s military. Again, no offense intended, but I’m less concerned about the officer corps, given their present proscriptions.

    To that end, I’ll relate the words of my younger brother, Michael. He enlisted a few years after I graduated Officer Candidate School, and is now one of the highest ranking NCO’s on the ground in Afghanistan. I asked him what he thought would be the ramifications of a repeal of DADT, given his 22+ years of service.

    His answer: “Bro, back in the 90’s, all my guys had was time to sit around, gossip, party on the weekends and pull sh*t details. Ever since 9/11, we’re too f*ckin busy trying not to get killed to give a sh*t about who’s gay. Hell, I haven’t even jerked off since I got back here.”

    Take all of this for what it’s worth, but among all this discourse about whether or not to repeal DADT, I would appreciate nothing more than the opportunity to sit down with a group of young gay men and women, be they civilian and active duty, and hear their stories. I’d like to hear what motivates them to serve or want to serve, how they envision their lives in uniform, and how they perceive this entire debate. I have yet to hear that point of view, but it is most assuredly one we all need to hear.

    Comment by Eric Olsen — October 13, 2009 @ 2:24 pm - October 13, 2009

  6. Eric. Terrific Post!!!! Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — October 13, 2009 @ 3:05 pm - October 13, 2009

  7. This is interesting considering the anti-Semitic hatred and bigotry the left showed for Lieberman a few years back.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 13, 2009 @ 4:32 pm - October 13, 2009

  8. Lieberman is an interesting choice, someone I could respect to lead this in the Senate. I cannot help but be skeptical though. This president has shown that isn’t a leader (no surprise to me) and I have to wonder if he isn’t just pawning this off on the only former-Dem-turned-Independent Senator, who also isn’t popular among the Dem rank-and-file, to shut up his gay critics. Perhaps I’m just too jaded on this issue now when it comes to the politics involved, but this president and his party with their empty promises are responsible for that. Still, I like Joe despite his liberal tendencies. He has a solid record on support for the military and the war effort and isn’t afraid to buck his former party to boot.

    1: The recent issue of Joint Forces Quarterly has a good article on this issue that I highly recommend if you are interested:

    2: I served myself and perhaps more importantly grew up an Army brat of a career warrant officer (who also opposes DADT), but let me say that you explain it quite well and perhaps better than I could. Thanks.

    5: Nicely done, Eric. Thank you for your service and if you are interested in speaking with some gay vets I highly recommend you contact Alex or Jarrod from the Servicemembers United website. Their group is very different from what I usually see, like SLDN.

    Comment by John — October 13, 2009 @ 7:48 pm - October 13, 2009

  9. Why do gays dislike ‘don’t ask don’t tell’?

    The current implementation seems to be missing a piece: Don’t Pursue. (Clinton originally sold it as DADTDP. Ironically, Republican administrations do a better job of not pursuing than Democrat ones.)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 13, 2009 @ 7:54 pm - October 13, 2009

  10. (not a perfect job, of course – just slightly better)

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — October 13, 2009 @ 7:56 pm - October 13, 2009

  11. Considering Obama’s history of saying and promising one thing and then either not delivering or just lying and pandering a bit more, I find it hard to believe he is sincere on DADT.

    If he can see some material gain for himself then I think he might attempt to change the policy but that will also mean changing the law and his penchant for voting “present” somewhat makes that less than likely to happen.

    Comment by Not Always Right — October 13, 2009 @ 11:05 pm - October 13, 2009

  12. […] Lieberman Likely to Lead Effort to Repeal DADT? […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Gay Groups Should Make Repealing DADT the Priority — October 14, 2009 @ 12:13 am - October 14, 2009

  13. “Why do gays dislike ‘don’t ask don’t tell’?”

    Let’s see…. Can heterosexual soldiers be fired for indirectly revealing–say, through mention of a significant other–that they are heterosexual?

    Comment by Scott Spiegel — October 14, 2009 @ 12:08 pm - October 14, 2009

  14. […] there is another sign (following its efforts to recruit Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman spearhead repeal efforts in the Senate) that the Administration may be working toward fulfilling the […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Another Sign of Forward Motion on DADT Repeal? — October 16, 2009 @ 12:00 pm - October 16, 2009

  15. […] said it before and I’ll say it again, it was a smart move to put Lieberman at the forefront of this […]

    Pingback by GayPatriot » Lieberman Introduces Bill to Repeal DADT — March 4, 2010 @ 3:02 am - March 4, 2010

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