WASHINGTON – Sure, Congress voted to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” last year, signaling the end of the 17-year-old policy that prevented gay servicemembers from being open about their sexuality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the discharges are over.
Today a sailor in California faces a 3-member panel about a potential discharge under DADT.
The policy won’t be officially finished until 60 days after the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all sign off that the military’s ability to fight won’t be adversely affected by lifting the ban. It’s expected to happen late this year after each of the services completes training on the repeal.
For now, DADT is still in effect. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed in October that all discharges had to be expressly approved by the secretary of the service and the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
Nobody has been discharged since then.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Derek Morado was outed in November 2009 after he posted photos of him kissing another man on his MySpace page, but his case sat idle while the Pentagon studied the consequences of repeal ahead of a congressional vote on the matter.
Then Morado was notified earlier this month that his discharge would proceed, according to the gay activist group GetEQUAL.
After his hearing today at Lemoore Naval Air Station, the recommendation on whether to discharge Morado will go to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus for approval.
Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said although the lower ranks have to follow regulations and move forward, its doubtful Mabus would sign off on a discharge.
“Given where we are with everything (for appeal) moving along smartly it certainly seems unlikely,” he said.
Instead Mabus could put the decision on hold until the repeal is finalized, Korb said.
The Navy said the secretary currently does not have any other DADT cases before him for consideration.
For Morado, who has been wondering for more than a year whether he’ll be able to stay in the Navy, “this lengthy matter has been tearing me up,” he said in statement.
It looks likely there’s more waiting in store.