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Gates Repeats Call for Senate to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask’

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Dec. 10, 2010 – Repeating his warning that the Defense Department would be unable to prepare properly if a court strikes down the law that bans gays from serving openly in the military, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today he hopes the Senate repeals the law before its session ends next week.

Speaking with reporters on the homeward leg of an overseas trip, Gates said he’s disappointed that the Senate has not acted on legislation that would repeal the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law once the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the military is ready to implement the change.

“There’s still roughly a week left in that session, so I would hope that Congress would act to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the secretary said. “If they are unable to do that, then – as I’ve indicated in testimony and talking with you all – my greatest worry would be that we are at the mercy of the courts, and all of the lack of predictability that entails.”

Gates cited what he called a “wake-up call” when a 9th Circuit Court judge struck the law down globally in October. The Justice Department filed an appeal and obtained a stay, but not without turmoil in the meantime.

“So for all practical purposes, from that moment forward, the law was no longer in effect,” he said. “We’d had no training, no preparation, and we weren’t 100 percent certain that the 9th Circuit would give us a stay. And so there was a two-week period there where there was an enormous amount of uncertainty as the courts went back and forth.”

Another problem with the law’s fate being in the hands of the courts, Gates added, is the possibility that an invalidation of the law by one court would apply only within that court’s jurisdiction, resulting in different sets of criteria between that jurisdiction and the rest of the country.

A working group Gates appointed to investigate the potential impact of the law’s repeal and recommend how to implement a change released its report Nov. 30. But the secretary said he doesn’t want to move forward with the training and other measures the group recommended while the law is still on the books. The secretary and other officials have said repeatedly that legislative repeal would give the department time to implement a change properly, while a sudden invalidation of the law by a court decision would not.

“The way we get that time is most assuredly with the legislation that’s before the Congress,” Gates said today. “We do now have a roadmap in terms of implementation in the paper that was prepared by the working group. But I think it would be a serious mistake to start training and preparing before the law is changed, because I feel this confuses the troops. What is the law and what’s not the law? You’re being trained in both directions. So while we have a blueprint and we have a plan, I think it would be a mistake to begin that process until there is action with respect to the law.”


Contact Author

Robert M. Gates

Related Sites:
Travels With Gates
Special Report: Don't Ask, Don't Tell


Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

12/15/2010 9:52:38 AM
Dear Defense Secretary Gates, I support the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. In my 50 years on this earth I have yet to meet any LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) human being who has had any interest in trying to convince me to be anything but myself. I have a suspicion that many people fearful of the LGBT community don't actually know anyone in said community.I believe this issue has been created by fearful people and is not based on real life experience. Are you brave enough to really figure out, in person, what the LGBT community contributes every day to this country? Folks will say God is behind their opinions. God is behind mine as well when he said to love one another. Biggest challenge we've been given and we can't do it, even when those "others" commit their lives to keep ours safe. God is not an excuse to stay at home and make judgements. Sincerely, Cellia Wetzel
- Celia Wetzel, Ohio

12/10/2010 9:17:04 PM
Secretary Gates, give up on the reapeal of Don't Ask Don't tell. The voters of this country DO NOT want it repealed nor do the REAL service men and women actually fighting to save this county! It may not be important to you, sir, but if DADT is repealed I will stop paying taxes. I won't have my tax dollars pay for the homosexualization of our military! I just won't! And if you can't listen to me or the other voters of this country, then you should resign!
- Karen Grube, San Diego, CA

12/10/2010 5:46:59 PM
God Bless John McCain! And SHAME on ADMS Mullen and Roughhead and Sen. Jim Webb. In disrupting the good order and discipline of our forces, in directly challenging the collective wisdom of humanity as to acceptable standards of comportment in human relations, BHO, inter alia, could not have done more harm to the people of the United States than to seek repeal of Section 654, Title 10, US Code. Secretary Gates needs to fully carry out the Law. Judicial blackmail is nonsense. The Supremes have ruled on DADT many times. Despite the damage BHO has done to the judiciary by adding a confirmed lesbian to the court, the ideological balance has not changed...yet.
- Will, Fayetteville, NC

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