The effort to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers made its way to the U. S. Senate this week, with the introduction of the first-ever Senate bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) unveiled his version of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act in a press conference Wednesday, a year to the day after the House version was introduced.
In announcing his intention to introduce the bill last month, Lieberman said he has opposed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since its inception, as it contradicts the “fundamental principles” upon which the nation was built and weakens its defense system.
Lieberman is joined by 11 Democratic cosponsors, including Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter, as well as Armed Services Committee chair Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.) and Sens. Mark Udall (Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Roland Burris (Ill.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Diane Feinstein (Calif.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.).
The bill has yet to garner support from any Republican senators.
Lieberman’s move was hailed by LGBT activists, such as Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.
“By introducing the first bill to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the Senate, Sen. Lieberman is continuing the momentum to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ this year,” Solmonese said, calling Lieberman’s measure a “bold, patriotic move that will long be remembered as key to removing the stain” of the military ban.
“As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an expert on national security, Sen. Lieberman’s leadership in the fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is critical to achieving repeal this year,” he continued.
Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th Dist.) took over as the lead sponsor on the House bill last summer and has so far garnered cosponsorship from 188 lawmakers.
In an interview with DC Agenda earlier this week, Murphy said he expects Congress to vote on the bill in the “next couple months” and noted that it could be attached to the 2011 defense-authorization bill, which usually is voted on in October.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates released the initial plan of action that will prepare the military for the potential repeal of the 17-year-old law, which he first recommended at a Senate hearing last month.
The March 2 memo, which was issued to a cadre of military leaders, noted that if Congress repeals the law, “strong, engaged and informed leadership will be required at every level to properly and effectively implement a legislative change. To be successful, we must understand all issues and potential impacts associated with repeal of the law and how to manage implementation in a way that minimizes disruption.”
Gates said the Pentagon will undertake a wide-ranging study, led by Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Army Gen. Carter Ham, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, to examine years of research on the issue and ascertain how “military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion” could be impacted by the repeal of the law.
The report, due Dec. 1, will also include recommendations for the effective implementation of the repeal.