Pennsylvania Congressmen spearhead efforts to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
With the president’s promise to end "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," two local Congressmen continue to spearhead efforts on Capitol Hill to quickly repeal the controversial policy.
Pennsylvania Congressmen Patrick Murphy and Joe Sestak, both veterans, have been vocal in their opposition towards the policy against openly gay soldiers since voters first elected them in 2006. While their efforts to overturn the Clinton-era law did not make much progress under the Bush administration, both are confident the policy will end during the Obama administration. Sestak, a former three-star admiral who served 31 years in the U.S. Navy, told EDGE ending the policy is an issue of integrity.
"The issue of integrity is very important to the military," he said. "When you’re asking men and women to be in a profession that is marked by the dignity of danger, integrity to your fellow warrior is very important. When you have an official dictum that tells people they are to live a lie and not tell who they are that degrades the authority of those who are enforcing it."
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a year-long Pentagon review of the 1993 policy during a meeting with the Senate Armed Services Committee. While he supports the president’s decision to end DODT, he believes the review is necessary in order to enforce the repeal effectively.
"I question [Gates] on that," Sestak told EDGE. "Why does it take us a year to study the implementation of an ideal? This isn’t a matter of just getting a new type of ordering system for supplies-this is a matter of our ideals. We’re asking people to live a lie-that’s wrong. We can turn on a dime and implement this."
For his part, Murphy introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which Sestak and 186 others co-sponsored, to end DODT. While Murphy hopes the bill will pass in the coming months, some are skeptical Congress will take on such a controversial issue during an election year. Michael Stump, a former Army Attorney with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, believes changing the policy would disrupt military cohesiveness and said the military is "not anti-gay, it’s anti-flaming gay."
"I totally disagree," Sestak responded. "You go up to an aircraft carrier today and the average age of those 5,000 sailors is 19 years old. To them serving with a gay sailor is not an issue. This is a new generation that did not grow up under the templates by which they viewed society as some others did in older generations."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney offered a similar opinion on ABC’s "This Week" on Sunday. He said society has moved on and is ready for the change. Kate Hansen, a spokesperson for Murphy, added bi-partisan support for the repeal reflects the ideals of the general public.
"I believe that when Cheney pointed out that it seemed like a generational thing-I think that was very true," Hansen told EDGE. "I think we’re seeing a shift in the attitude that people realize it doesn’t matter who you are-if you want to serve your country you should be able to serve your country. We’re asking incredible sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and they’re just asking to serve their country."
Hansen added Murphy is encouraged by the government’s efforts in setting a timeline on the repeal. He recognizes, however, there is still work to be done and it may take another year before the law is overturned.
"I think [Murphy] is really confident that we can get this done and I think he would’ve liked to see this overturned yesterday," Hansen said. "He’s confident that we are moving forward-he’s still talking and calling, he’s still positioning co-sponsors and support for this. We’re just going to keep moving forward, but it’s the congress’s job to put this into effect."