Gates’ advice on gay policy on right course

Freedom New Mexico

A long-awaited Pentagon report on repealing the “don’t’ ask don’t tell” policy so that gay people can serve openly in the military services strongly suggests, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, that it “would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that some people have predicted.”

The report also noted, however, that there could be “some limited and isolated disruption to unit cohesion and retention.”

It is worth noting that, while 70 percent of service members overall believe the impact of letting gays serve openly would be positive, mixed or of no consequence, the percentage of those who anticipated problems was higher for Marines and for troops on active combat duty. These facts suggest that a transition and adjustment period might have to be longer than some advocates might prefer. But it would be helpful for Congress to start that process now – with a few provisos.

Senate Republicans have announced that all 42 of them will filibuster any bill during this lame-duck session until two essential bills are passed: one to maintain the status quo on tax rates, perhaps with minor compromises, and a Continuing Resolution to provide funding to make sure the government doesn’t shut down in a few weeks. There is little reason to doubt their resolve.

Congressional Democrats who want to see D.A.D.T. changed, as President Barack Obama promised during his campaign, are undoubtedly aware that the Congress taking power in January, with six more Republicans in the Senate and with Republicans in control of the House, will be unlikely to make this change. So it behooves Democrats to pass a tax-rate extension and a budget Continuing Resolution if they want to change military policy.

Defense Secretary Gates prefers that Congress change military policy rather than having it imposed by judicial fiat, which would undermine the perceived legitimacy of the change. He is correct.

He has also expressed concern about maintaining and encouraging integrity in an institution that requires people to be deceitful about who they are in order to serve.

A time may and probably should come when there are no more lame-duck sessions of Congress. This year, however, Congress would do well to listen to Gates.