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Is Obama Dragging His Feet on Overturning "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?

9:55 AM, Feb 6, 2009 • By JIM PREVOR
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The Boston Globe reported this week that the Obama administration is not moving instantly to drop the "don't ask, don't tell" policy:

The Obama administration is telling the Pentagon and gay-rights advocates that it will have to study the implications for national security and enlist more support in Congress before trying to overturn the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" law and allow gays to serve openly in the military, according to people involved in the discussions.

They said Obama, who pledged during the campaign to overturn the law, does not want to ask lawmakers to do so until the military has completed a comprehensive assessment of the impact that such a move would have on military discipline. Then, the president hopes to be able to make a case to members of both parties that overturning the 1993 law would be in the best interest of national security.

Obama is hoping to avoid the missteps of the Clinton administration when it tried to open the ranks to gays and lesbians, only to be confronted by fierce resistance from lawmakers and commanders. Early in his presidency, Bill Clinton signed an order allowing gays to serve but was forced to back off. A compromise made it illegal for gays to serve openly, but also restricted investigations into service members' sexual behavior.

Despite this being an open issue for years it is not clear that Republicans have articulated why allowing openly gay troops to serve may be problematic.

While proponents of gays in the military often say that their opponents simply don't like gays, there are real reasons to keep 'don't ask, don't tell' intact. In the military, people do not have the same freedoms they have in civilian life, say to pick their own roommates. One reason we don't have co-ed bunks in the military is not because we think the men are going to commit rape, but because we think it fundamentally unfair to subject women to that environment. For exactly the same reason, no male soldier should be forced to have a gay roommate. This sets up a whole mess of complications in housing. Furthermore, the acceptance of gays in the military would have a negative impact on recruitment and troops morale--hardly something the country can afford, especially in a time of war.