On Tuesday, the Pentagon plans to begin enforcing repeal of the 1993 law stating that homosexuals are not eligible for military service, usually called “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Senior House Armed Services Committee leaders are saying “Not so fast.” In a Sept. 12 letter to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican, and personnel subcommittee Chairman Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican, called for a delay in implementation until the Pentagon provides written regulations that the repeal legislation requires. PowerPoint slides do not qualify.
The stunning McKeon-Wilson letter confirms that “certification” of the services’ readiness to proceed, signed by Mr. Panetta, President Obama and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen on July 22, was not complete or accurate. Despite repeated requests, committee officials have not received documents that comply with requirements for public review and comment. Wrote Mr. McKeon and Mr. Wilson, “The Department is not ready to implement the repeal because all the policies and regulations necessary for the transition are not yet final.”
In a July 28 committee hearing statement, Mr. McKeon observed, “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ resulted from a process that insulted the legislative and oversight responsibilities of the House of Representatives.” Mr. McKeon cited a Defense Department inspector general’s investigation report, which revealed that the vaunted 2010 Pentagon survey on homosexuals in the military was “so pre-determined that the final report was being drafted before the surveys were even sent to the troops.”
Mr. McKeon continued, “The lame-duck Congress seized the conclusions of the faulty report and forced through a repeal bill over the stated reservations of the service chiefs. …” The process allowed “none of the rigorous examination that is essential to adopting sound legislation.”
During hearings in April, committee members asked many questions about the effect of the new LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) law on issues such as personal privacy, marriage benefits and religious rights of conscience. On the thorniest of issues, Pentagon witnesses repeatedly answered “I don’t know.”
Playing keep-away games with documents that Mr. McKeon and Mr. Wilson say should be public, Pentagon officials allowed committee members to briefly see but not retain copies of senior military leaders’ memorandums regarding the repeal. Taking advantage of the administration’s “don’t ask, we won’t tell” attitude, homosexual activist groups are demanding swift imposition of LGBT policies that contradict previous assurances that the administration gave to Congress.
According to The Washington Times, in an Aug. 11 letter to Mr. Panetta, Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) disingenuously suggests that it would be “simple” to add “sexual orientation” to the five categories (race, color, sex, religion and national origin) covered under the Military Equal Opportunity program and Human Goals Charter.
Such a change, he argues, would justify 10 mostly new administrative policies. LGBT activists expect access for same-sex couples (with or without children) to military family housing, commissaries, exchanges, medical facilities and morale/recreation programs. They also want provisions for legal aid and courtroom testimonial immunity for same-sex couples, provisions for joint duty assignments, certain deployment exemptions, and space-available travel privileges for “command-sponsored dependents.”
The SLDN letter acknowledges that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits military benefits for same-sex couples, but its recommendations simply pretend DOMA does not exist. Terms such as “spouse,” “couples,” “family” and “dependents” are undefined or vaguely connected to marriage or civil partnerships that are legal in just a few states.
How long would a homosexual couple have to be committed to each other to receive benefits? One year, one month - or one night? In the military’s new gender order, absent regulations, conceivable qualifications for military spouse ID cards bestowing housing, travel and other privileges would be unclear and inconsistent.
The Pentagon’s assurances that DOMA will preclude same-sex marriage benefits and associated costs are not credible. The Obama Justice Department has joined with homosexual activists in demanding that federal courts declare DOMA to be unconstitutional, and the Pentagon will not oppose inevitable lawsuits with arguments contrary to the Justice Department.
The Comprehensive Review Working Group, which produced a report on the subject last November, denied that sexual minorities would be covered under the Military Equal Opportunity program. The same Pentagon report compared acceptance of homosexuals in the military to previous civil rights advances for racial minorities and women.
Enter pseudonymed J.D. Smith, director of an “underground” military activist group called Outserve. Mr. Smith told The Washington Times that he wants targeted recruitment of homosexuals, just like other minorities, and representation at homosexual pride parades. Outserve is publishing a special-interest magazine for distribution on military bases, and the group is planning an October “summit” in Las Vegas to discuss what LGBT personnel want from the military.
Separatism in the military invites trouble. Some European forces have labor unions that negotiate benefits, but our military does not permit active-duty unions or factions that would disrupt unity of purpose in the ranks.
President Obama made a political promise to LGBT activists, and Defense Department appointees have created a shaky house of cards that is about to collapse. Congress has the right to review regulations defining the president’s “San Francisco military.” Tactics used to pass and enforce the LGBT law should be made public, and the next president and Congress should resolve to take our military back.
Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness.