SLDN: Full Senate action coming, emphasizes ‘DADT has not gone away’

Earlier this afternoon, I was on a conference call for editors of gay media with SLDN’s Executive Director, Aubrey Sarvis. He’s done an excellent job of keeping us all informed about what’s going on in the complicated process of repealing DADT. Aubrey actually treats the community like adults and realizes the value of keeping media, bloggers and activists informed.

As we know, the next step in the repeal process is on the Senate floor. Action on the Defense Authorization bill, which includes the DADT compromise, could come as early as June 18th. However, it’s likely get pushed back til after the Fourth of July recess.

Sarvis stated that SLDN needs the community to weigh in with Senators. The main switchboard for the Senate is 202-224-3121. The advice is: Follow Senator Levin. According to Aubrey, “We look to Chairman Levin and we follow his lead.”

There are at least three likely hurdles on the Senate floor: 1) to beat back the filibuster, which will probably be led by Senator McCain; 2) to defeat the amendment to strike (a similar amendment to strike was offered and defeated in the Senate Armed Services Committee); and 3) to defeat a second amendment, which Aubrey thinks could be “crippling.” (More on possible amendments here.) We really need to beat either or both of those amendments. I asked if our side would filibuster the potential “crippling” amendment. Aubrey thought that’s unlikely.

SLDN wants to have identical language in both the House and Senate versions of the DoD legislation when it hits the conference committee, probably in the fall. That will make it harder for our opponents to strip out the language in conference.

Sarvis made it clear repeatedly that, for now, SLDN is focused on Senate. When asked if he wanted the support of GetEQUAL activists, Aubrey said, “If you’re in the community, whatever your tactic or role has been, over the next few weeks, it’s about getting your senators to support Senator Levin…that certainly includes GetEQUAL.”

The other important message from the call was that even if we get a successful Senate vote, DADT is not going away. Even with President’s signature on the Defense authorization bill, DADT won’t go away. That’s especially important information for LGBT servicemembers.

For now, DADT remains the law and the military will continue to enforce it.

Aubrey was emphatic that discharges are continuing, despite the Pentagon’s “more humane” regulations. He also said that another myth is that the third party outings had come to an end. Sarvis said,”Reality on the ground: That is not the case.”

Yep, despite all the celebrating last week, discharges are continuing. Investigations are underway. The risk for LGBT servicemembers remains.

I asked Aubrey if he had any idea when the discharges might end, he said, “I wish I knew.”

But, Aubrey was clear that this process doesn’t have to be dragged out. He was adamant that there is no reason why President Obama, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen cannot be ready to certify that the legislative conditions are met shortly after the Working Group’s report is delivered on December 1, 2010. Then, under Senator Byrd’s amendment, there are 60 days for Congressional committees to review that finding.

If things go smoothly — and there’s no legitimate reason why they shouldn’t — open service should happen before the end of the first quarter on 2011.

Obviously, pressure needs to be applied to the White House and Pentagon to make sure the certification happens quickly and the discharges stop. But, from my vantage point, this rests squarely on the President’s plate. It was, after all, Obama who repeatedly promised to repeal the law. And, the Secretary and Chairman do work for the President. He is the Commander-in-Chief.

So, lots of work ahead. Lots of pitfalls along the way. And, still lots of danger for LGBT servicemembers. It’s not over. And, we’ll need to see real leadership from Obama to finally end DADT.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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