There were meetings at the White House yesterday with gay-rights organizations that had previously been frozen out by the administration. Letters flew back and forth between the White House and Capitol Hill, and a deal was hatched that will allow for a vote this week on kinda/sorta/maybe repealing DADT, a vote the White House had sought to head off despite the president's SOTU promise to repeal DADT this year. But the bill, if passed this week, won't actually repeal DADT this year.
The compromise was finalized in meetings Monday at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers will now, within days, vote on amendments that would repeal the Clinton-era policy, with a provision ensuring that any change would not take effect until after the Pentagon completes a study about its impact on troops. That study is due to Congress by Dec. 1.... While gay rights advocates hailed the move as a "dramatic breakthrough," it remained uncertain whether the deal would secure enough votes to pass both houses of Congress. Republicans have vowed to maintain "don't ask, don't tell," while conservative Democrats have said they would oppose a repeal unless military leaders made it clear that they approved of such a change.
Even if the compromise language passes, a legislative repeal would take effect only after Obama certified that the change would not harm the nation's military readiness.
John at Americablog has the full text of the DADT deal and a breakdown of how it would work. Or not work:
The House and Senate will pass legislation this year that provides that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will be considered repealed if and when the following happens:
1. The Secretary of Defense receives the "study."
2. The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that:
- They have considered the recommendations in the study
- DOD has prepared the necessary policies and regulations needed to implement a repeal
- The implementation of the repeal is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.
Current policy will remain in place until the above conditions are satisfied. And if the above conditions are never satisfied, the current DADT policy will remain in place. There is nothing in the legislation that says the repeal must happen.
Backing up for a second, here's the NYT on how we got this deal...
It was not clear whether the deal had secured the votes necessary to pass the House and Senate, but the agreement removed the Pentagon's objections to having vote quickly on repealing the contentious 17-year-old policy.... Mr. Obama has been under intense pressure from gay rights groups to live up to his campaign promise to work with Congress to repeal the law.
Acts of civil disobedience made DADT "contentious." GetEqual and Dan Choi and the netroots—not HRC—put the president under "intense pressure." Their success on DADT—and it is a success, this is progress—provides us with a road map to passing ENDA and repealing DOMA and securing federal recognition of same-sex relationships. We have to make breaking promises made to the LGBT community during campaigns more politically costly for Democrats than fulfilling them ever could be. People have to be willing to get arrested, embarrass our "allies" in the Democratic party, and heckle our Fierce Advocate in Chief.
So there's nothing in this bill, if it passes, that says when DADT will be repealed or that compels the law's repeal. If the bill passes and the president signs it into law, DADT will remain in effect—gays and lesbians and bisexuals will still be hounded out of the military, people will still have their careers destroyed and their lives turned upside down—until the conditions laid out are met. There is no timeline. So the protests and civil disobedience and arrests and intense pressure and contention will have to continue.
Until DADT is dead.
UPDATE: Here's Andrew on the news...
My major fear up to now has been that the repeal could get lost legislatively if the GOP made big gains in the House and Senate this fall, as is historically almost certain. This compromise removes the basis for that fear, while allowing the military and the defense secretary to manage the transition to ensure a smooth ride. I hope it works. If it does, it really will be a feather in the cap of Jim Messina, the good folks at SLDN and Servicemembers United, and the Obama administration. It will also redound to the credit of those who did not give up on this, who refused to concede that this was not a civil rights question of the first order, and to the countless servicemembers, past and future, who put their lives and careers on the line for this change.
I should've praised the work—more than a decade's worth—by SLDN in particular. They laid the groundwork for this victory, crafted and honed the arguments against DADT, and made the case against DADT year after year. Polling on DADT didn't shift from broad support for banning gay people from serving openly in the military to overwhelming support for repealing DADT in a vacuum. SLDN is largely responsible for that shift in public opinion. Activists willing to put their bodies on the line and get arrested—the men and women who made continued inaction politically costly for Obama—pushed us into the end zone. But SLDN got the ball to the five-yard line.