July 23, 2009
DADT and the Senate
Posted by: Andoni
UPDATE 2: Andrew Sullivan, back from his sabbatical, doesn't believe that the Dems are serious about repealing DADT.
UPDATE: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced this morning that the United States Senate would hold its first ever hearings on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy this fall.
Perhaps many on you have read in today's Washington Blade that Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) has dropped her idea of attaching an amendment to the defense appropriations bill temporarily suspending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law (DADT) for 18 months while the military determines whether a full repeal should be done. She couldn't get the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster by those who still support DADT.
This is very discouraging. The military needs more people, qualified people. Just yesterday Secretary Gates announced plans to increase the army by 22,000 servicemembers because we don't have enough with two ongoing wars. Yet since the inception of DADT the military has discharged about 13,000 trained and able soldiers because of the policy.
The saddest part of all this is that polls have repeatly shown that 75% or more of the public favors allowing gays to serve openly in the military. So why can't we repeal DADT? The problem is the US Constitution and the Senate rules. In the Senate you need 60 (out of 100) votes to pass anything. And each state gets two senators, no matter how few people they represent. So all those big (and conservative) states with not too many people in the mid-west get two votes.
Our government is set up to effectively allow 25 to 30% of the population to block the will of the other 70 to 75%. It's very, very hard to change things in this country. I guess that's good if you are trying to prevent a revolution from within, but not so good if you are talking about protecting the rights of a minority, especially when the courts are so reluctant to do so.
The only silver lining in all this is that when the people who hate us were in power, we could block a lot of their agressive anti-gay legislation, although not enough of it, because in the hysteria of the era, the Democrats did not block DADT or DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act).
So given this history, I think I would rather have had a parliamentary system. They still would have passed DOMA and DADT, but at least we might have been able to reverse those by now with simple majorities.
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