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    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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    1. Charles on Jul 24, 2009 2:28:31 AM:

      DOMA = DENIAL of Marriage Act. Let's call it what it is...

      Also, I thought you only needed 60 votes in the senate if you wanted to be sure of overcoming a veto. Plenty of stuff has passed on a 50% + 1 vote in the past. Am I wrong?

    1. Josh Patel on Jul 24, 2009 10:51:04 AM:

      Hey Andoni

      It is really sad that Seator did not get the required number of votes. The gay have every right to serve openly in the army. You have a valid point when you say that when we need more peope we should try to get the rather than wasting time.

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    1. Herb Spencer on Jul 24, 2009 11:15:30 AM:

      Let's not rewrite history for the sake of hysteria: it was Clinton who dreamed up DADT and signed it into effect. While it's an open question whether he's "one of the people who hate us" - a rather jejeune characterization of our opposition - in light of his "White [Latex] Glove treatment" of the gay visitors to his WH and his "throw us under the bus" comments before the last election, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that your criticism was leveled at the GOP, not [your fellow?] Dems. But again, it was Dem. Sam Nunn who successfully stared Clinton down over his "pledge" - such as it was - to open up the military to gays and lesbians. So please, spare those of us who are actively working to change this policy, both within the GOP and elsewhere, from your "feel good" mischaracterization and misunderstanding of how the Senate operates, which is as flawed from a procedural perspective as it is from a political and historical one.

    1. Andoni on Jul 24, 2009 11:43:34 AM:

      Herb, I read your comment 3 times and still don't understand what you are saying. Here is a clarification of my post. Those who hate us referred to any anti-gay Senators and Congresspeople both Dem and Republican, but mainly the vicious Repubs who often tried to attach punitive anti gay provisions to legislation. To their credit, the Dems used procedural methods (threat of a filibuster) to stop these. However, for DADT, the Dems were in charge of Congress and were part of the hysteria. Similarly, for DOMA, if the Dems had had a backbone, they could have killed DOMA. They didn't and in fact were complicit in creating the apartheid system we currently have for couples recognition in this country. And a Dem president approved of and signed both bills.

      My main point is that in the Senate if one side feels strongly about something they can block it if they have 40 votes. The Dems didn't do that for DADT or DOMA and now they are law. However, now the Repubs feel strongly about NOT repealing these laws and repeal is easily blocked. My concluding point was that if the US had a Parliamentary system where a simple majority rules and where there is discipline and uniformity in party line voting, we still would have had DADT and DOMA, but now it would be much easier to undo these because only a simple majority would do it and with party line voting that would guarantee it.
      Now what were you trying to say?

    1. keithincali on Jul 25, 2009 12:17:52 AM:

      I was disheartened by Senator Gillibrand's decision to shelve this. Even if she couldn't get the necessary support, we need leaders who are willing to push it to the limit. It seems to me that they fold at the slightest resistance.

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