'Now is not the time' to repeal DADT, Pentagon lawyers argue

Gay rights activists are sounding the alarm about a Pentagon legal memo that advocates delaying any decision about the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy until 2011, as well as a news report that military brass are considering separate facilities for gay soldiers.

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller reported Friday that the Department of Defense is "stepping up internal discussions" on the military's 17-year-old DADT policy in anticipation of a push to repeal the law this year. Those discussions are targeting "the practical implications of a repeal — for example, whether it would be necessary to change shower facilities and locker rooms because of privacy concerns, whether to ban public displays of affection on military bases and what to do about troops who are stationed or make port calls in nations that outlaw homosexuality."

John Avarosis at AmericaBlog describes this as the seeds of a "separate but equal" policy for gays in the military, referring to the legal term used by US courts prior to the Civil Rights Act to justify segregation of blacks and whites.

"In addition to being supremely offensive, it's also supremely idiotic, as gay and lesbian servicemembers are already sharing showers and barracks with straight troops, without incident, and have been since before the Revolution," Avarosis writes.

The Associated Press reports that a memo from Adm. Mike Mullen's legal staff is urging the US's top military officer to delay any changes to DADT until 2011.

"Now is not the time," the leaked memo stated. "The importance of winning the wars we are in, along with the stress on the force, our body of knowledge, and the number of unknowns, demand that we act with deliberation."

Under that proposal, the process to repeal DADT would begin in 2011, and "Congress would follow with debate lasting six months to a year, the legal advisers wrote, meaning repeal would be unlikely until 2012," AP reports. If that were the case, it would push the DADT issue into a presidential election year, turning it into a campaign wedge issue.

It's "not clear what [Mullen] will recommend to President Obama," the AP report states.

This isn't the first time Pentagon officials have floated the idea of separate facilities or units for gay servicemembers. In October of 2009, Army Secretary John McHugh expressed similar notions about some sort of separation of gay and straight soldiers. The Army Times reported:

Selling the idea to Congress, which has the final say, could depend on exactly what the administration tries to do in terms of the timing of repeal and how it is applied, McHugh said.

It’s possible, for example, that homosexuals could be allowed into some occupations or units but barred from others, McHugh said, stressing that he was not aware of any such plans but only discussing how the issue might play out.

According to the New York Times and AmericaBlog's Avarosis, gay-rights groups met in secret last week to discuss the administration's plans for a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Despite previous claims that the administration "has a vision" for tackling DADT, and despite the president's announcement last fall that he will repeal the policy, the gay-rights meeting revealed that the White House still has no plan to tackle the issue.

"The groups have no idea what the White House is going to decide, or when it will decide, and therefore cannot and will not endorse an all-out campaign to support the repeal of DADT until the White House makes up its mind," Avarosis reported.