Iraq Veteran To Take Lead On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal

April 8, 2009 10:35 am

Roll Call is reporting that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) will take the lead in advancing legislation to overturn the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy when it’s current sponsor, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), is confirmed by the Senate and moves over to the State Department to be President Obama’s Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

There’s major symbolic significance to that move.Murphy is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and, more importantly, a Bronze Star winner and the first Iraq war veteran to serve in Congress.

Tauscher’s confirmation may not come for some time, though, and Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have placed a DADT repeal on the back burner. On March 29, Gates sought to lower the expectations of many on the left who hoped a repeal would be coming in short order. “I think the president and I feel like we’ve got a lot on our plates right now,” Gates said. “Let’s push that one down the road a little bit.”

Less than two weeks later he proposed the most sweeping overhaul of defense spending in a generation.

Gates will be up on the HIll soon after Congress returns from recess to defend his budget, and one can imagine the issue arising at the hearing. Kevin Nix, communications director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network says, “the president can and should ax Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell out of his FY ’10 defense budget…. If he doesn’t do so, he is effectively signaling that the ban on openly gay and lesbian service members will be OK on his watch.”

He also suggests that activist groups might use the occasion to demonstrate for or against gay equality in the military. We’ll be following all developments closely.

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