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Executive, legislative action must be taken on DADT

Credit: Patrick Gage Kelley/Contributing Editor Credit: Patrick Gage Kelley/Contributing Editor

A vote taking steps to lift the ban on openly gay soldiers serving in the military was scheduled for this week as part of the annual defense spending bill; however, this amendment did not receive the required 60 votes to pass. This marked the first time in 48 years that Congress has not passed the routine defense spending authorization.

This year, the bill included a number of controversial non-military budget items (as is common), including the proposed “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) repeal legislation.

While it is disappointing that the bill did not pass and was not even debated, it is even more disappointing that it was partisan politics at play, rather than respect toward the actual issues, that stopped it. When politics block progress, the American population at large loses.

But with public opinion largely in favor of gay soldiers openly serving in the military, and this opinion having remained unchanged over the past several years, we want to see more movement on this issue. And currently the movement seems to be coming not from the legislative branch, but the judicial.

Earlier in September, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that DADT is in violation of both the First and Fifth Amendments. Then, late last Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton reversed an earlier decision that he made, now ruling that outed flight nurse Major Margaret Witt must be reinstated to military service. Witt was outed by a third party and discharged from service in 2006, but a higher appeals court forced Leighton to reconsider the case based on what is now known as the “Witt Standard,” an evaluation based specifically on whether or not Witt was harming the operations of her unit, a much stricter and personalized standard than the general “homosexuals harm military unity” claim.

It is in these cases and in continued work by activist groups that the most progress is being made toward striking down DADT. We applaud their continued efforts, encourage further and louder public support of the repeal, and remain hopeful that Congress or the White House will be moved to real action.