WASHINGTON — A group of 23 Republican lawmakers are asking President Barack Obama to halt any repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law while Congress renews debate on the future of the law.
The letter comes in response to a recent suggestion by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he may give the final OK for repeal of the controversial law barring openly gay troops in his final days in office. The lawmakers, led by California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, say that ending the repeal now would be “premature,” considering a group of amendments on the issue pending before Congress.
“As we move forward, it is imperative that Congress have the ability to exercise its authority to have direct oversight in the welfare of our military forces,” the letter states. “While our nation is engaged in two wars and operations throughout the globe, we need to ensure that all safeguards are in place in order to protect the effectiveness, morale and readiness of our Armed Forces.”
Last month, the Republican-controlled House passed a measure sponsored by Hunter requiring the OK of the four service chiefs before repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Another provision tucked into the defense budget bill would bar military personnel or facilities from being part of same-sex marriage ceremonies, citing the Defense of Marriage Act.
Neither provision is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. But in their letter, the House lawmakers argue that moving ahead with a “dramatic policy change” like the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal would be unwise. (Read the full letter here.)
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the pro-repeal Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called the letter nothing more than grandstanding.
“Mr. Hunter knows very well Congress has acted and the chiefs, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen are moving towards the final stages of certification,” he said. “This is all about Mr. Hunter, not about our troops, who have moved on.”
Gay rights groups are hopeful that Gates will certify that the services are ready for repeal before he retires from the Pentagon on June 30. Once certification by the president and defense secretary are complete, repeal of the law will take place 60 days later.