Gates calls for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ before seating of new Congress

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[JURIST] US Defense Secretary Robert Gates [official profile] called [press release] Sunday for Congress to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy [10 USC § 654; JURIST news archive] before the inauguration of the 112th Congress in January. Following Tuesday’s midterm elections [unofficial results], in which Republicans made significant gains in both houses of Congress, it is considered to be less likely that the legislation will pass [AP report] after the seating of the new members. In May, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the policy, but the legislation stalled in the Senate [JURIST reports], leaving the policy in place. The repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been an important issue for President Barack Obama since taking office, and its inclusion in the State of Union Address [JURIST report] reaffirmed it as a top priority for the administration. Also Sunday, Gates called for the Senate to ratify the New START treaty [materials, PDF; BBC backgrounder], which was signed in April [JURIST report] by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The treaty was approved in September [JURIST report] by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but has not yet been voted on by the full Senate.

Since the enactment of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” in 1993, approximately 13,000 servicemen and women have been discharged from the armed forces as a result of the policy. In addition to political attempts at ending the ban on gays in the military, it has faced legal challenges regarding its constitutionality. The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) [advocacy website] on Friday filed a petition asking the US Supreme Court to rescind the stay issued [JURIST reports] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allowing the policy to continue being enforced. In September, the US District Court for the Central District of California found the policy an unconstitutional violation of gay service members’ First Amendment and due process rights and issued the initial injunction [JURIST reports] against its enforcement the following month.

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