Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: How They Voted

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Yesterday, the US House of Representatives voted to repeal the discriminatory  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy by an overwhelming 250-175. Here’s how Marion County’s congressional delegation voted:

Yes (for repeal)
Corrine Brown (D)
Alan Grayson (D)

No (against repeal)
Ginnny Brown-Waite (R)
Cliff Stearns (R)

I really don’t know what to say to people, particularly members of Congress, who actually oppose repealing DADT, which prevents gay people from serving (at least openly) in our military. Most western nations allow gay people to serve in their military, the Pentagon after a several months long study has concluded it poses a “low risk” to fighting ability, and most Americans support repeal.

So what’s Cliff and Ginny’s (sounds like a washed up country duo from the 70s, but I digress) problem? Brown-Waite has put out no statement on the issue, and hasn’t posted a statement on any issue since July. To be fair to Brown-Waite, she decided not to run for reelection in April of this year due to health problems, and that could be the main reason why we’re just not hearing much from her, or her office.

Stearns, on the other hand, did release a statement. Here’s part of what he said justifying his vote against repealing DADT:

The House today approved H.R. 2965, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act.  “In testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on December 3, 2010, the chiefs of staff for the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps cautioned against repealing the law,” noted Stearns.  “General George Casey, the Army Chief of Staff, stated, ‘I believe that it [repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at this time] would increase the risk on our soldiers, particularly on our soldiers that are deployed in combat.’”

Stearns also cited the testimony of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, who said “If the law is changed…it has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level, as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus on preparing units for combat.”  Added Stearns, “While we are engaged in two wars, this is not the time to repeal this law, a move that our top military commanders maintain would undermine our combat operations.”

Of course, what Stearns conveniently leaves out is how Gen. Casey qualified that statement:

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., told the committee that he believed repeal would add stress to the force and be more difficult in combat arms units. But he added: “properly implemented, I do not envision that it would keep us from accomplishing our worldwide missions, including combat operations.”

As for Gen. Amos, here’s more context for his statement:

As to how, precisely, openly homosexual service members would affect unit cohesion, particularly given that gay service members are now serving in the marines, Amos said he was not able to offer any examples.

“I don’t have an answer to that,” he said. “I can’t answer what kind of behavior” that might be. “I just know in that environment there is no margin for error.”

Certainly no one has a definite answer, and there might be some unit issues should DADT be repealed. But you know what? When President Truman desegregated the military in 1948, I’m sure unit cohesion was tested, and managed to adapt just fine.

Stearns’ justifications, particularly in light of what Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen have said, are thin gruel. He is, as usual, on the wrong side of history.