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The Mantra to End DADT: Yes We Can!

By Aubrey Sarvis
Huffington Post
January 13, 2009

"Yes We Can" -- to borrow the mantra that resonated with such happy results for Barack Obama's campaign for the office he is about to assume. I'm talking about repeal in the new Congress of the odious "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that prevents openly gay men and women from serving in the military.

We can do it, and we will. If the President-elect's word is not enough -- and I believe it is -- and if the words in the Party Platform are not enough -- and I believe they are -- we now have the word from the incoming White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs. One Thaddeus in Lansing, Michigan, asked Friday on round two of "Open for Questions" on the transition's website,, if the new Administration was going to get rid of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.

Gibbs responded, "Thaddeus, you don't hear a politician giving a one-word answer much, but it's yes." Could anything be more clear, more unequivocal, and less ambiguous than that? I don't think so. But to engage our allies and build maximum support for repeal, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is holding a "Freedom to Serve" rally at noon on the Capitol grounds March 13.

We know the military won't wobble. The President leads and the military follows. Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, made that point as strongly as it could be made on the CBS program 60 Minutes Sunday. "When President-elect Obama gets in and he says, 'Here's the decision,' the United States military, led by me, is gonna march off and execute that decision."

"So, if the commander in chief says 'Do it,' you do it?" CBS News correspondent David Martin asked him.

"Absolutely," Mullen replied.

If there's any wobbling on the DADT issue, it's not coming so much from the Administration-in-waiting, although there may be a few over there who would like to delay (or even brush the whole matter under the rug), but from some in the LGBT community who are afraid of pressing too hard on the issue, of moving too fast. They want to cut Mr. Obama a little slack. More than a little, actually. You know the drill. First, we've got this national economic crisis that started out small and has since gone global, with more discouraging data coming out every day, it seems. Then there's Iraq. We've got to get out of there. The summer of 2010 is the goal. And there's the matter of affordable, accessible health care for all Americans, the third item on his agenda and definitely not an easy slide to home plate.

There is no question that our next president is facing a host of truly awful problems that no previous new president has ever had to face. All of us need to recognize the reality of those urgent priorities, but that doesn't mean that any of us should slack up on the call to repeal DADT. Cut the Administration some slack, yes -- but not too much. As I told Peter Baker in the New York Times on Saturday, "I'm not talking about a first-100-days initiative. I am suggesting this is very doable in 2009."

Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and passing the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, that's a fairly direct and straightforward mission, after all. Getting rid of this noxious, discriminatory, embarrassing law will be a lot easier than revitalizing the economy, ending a war, and getting national health care through Congress.

The indomitable Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of the busiest men in the Senate, is leading the way on a bill for repeal that he will introduce shortly. Sen. Kennedy's bill will be similar to House bill 1246, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act that Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and her 149 co-sponsors from both parties put into the legislative hopper in the last Congress. Senator Kennedy is expecting senators from both parties to join him as co-sponsors. The fact is, there are no longer many members of the House or Senate who want to stand up and say, "No homosexuals in my Army." That doesn't play for votes the way it once did.

So it can be done. The DADT law can be repealed and a positive law opening the military to all qualified applicants can be passed. Our legislative leaders just need a little push from us and it's urgent that we give them that push. They must see the momentum behind the call to repeal and that it's not coming just from the LGBT community. It's coming from thinking straights as well.

That's why we're all coming together on the Capitol grounds March 13, rallying for repeal and shouting, "Yes, We Can" in case anybody has forgotten that we, in fact, can. The campaign mantra is America's mantra, and since we are all Americans, it's our mantra, too. Yes. We. Can.

By Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN Executive Director |


Comments for this entry are closed.

James E. Pietrangelo, II in Cleveland, Ohio on January 13, 2009 at 06.01 pm

Because I know someone out there will make an issue out of it, I apologize for the spelling mistakes in my post.  “Effected” should be “affected,” and “litigation” should be “legislation.”  Brain burp!

James E. Pietrangelo, II in Cleveland, Ohio on January 13, 2009 at 05.57 pm

Sorry to be a perpetual “thorn in your side,” Aubrey, but I don’t get it.  You say in one breath that generals and admirals will take their marching orders and then in another breath you say that you are not looking for repeal in the first 100 days.  Why not repeal on the FIRST day when it’s that easy?  And it IS that easy.  The Commander-in-Chief, aka President Obama, issues an executive order effectively killing DADT (for example, he orders that all discharges will be withheld at the Presidential level) and the generals and commanders execute.  On that same first day, Obama’s Congressional majority tables a bill to repeal DADT entirely.  100 days may not seem like much to you Aubrey or to others not drastically effected, but it means a heck of a lot to those drastically effected, such as Tommy Cook who in a recent posting on this very site related how bad his life has been since his discharge.  He lost his job simply because of who he was born.  I keep hearing folks say Obama has too many other things to deal with, but I also hear these folks saying how brilliant Obama is.  Has anyone ever heard of “multi-tasking”?  Why is it that Obama has time to look for a puppy but not time to address equality for millions of Americans.  Moreover, SLDN could have an executive order and litigation draft to Obama’s desk today, so there really is nothing for Obama to have to do but to “execute” his “fierce advocacy for Gays.”  Gay Equality IS the highest priority Obama faces, because Gay Americans benefit from none of the other priorities listed as long as they do not have equality, and our democracy is nothing if we don’t all have equality.