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Levin bred: Can D-MI make it rain a DADT repeal?

by Jeremy Hooper

Levin-with-militaryThis from Talking Points Memo:

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said today that if the votes are there, he'll include a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in this year's Defense Authorization bill -- despite a warning from Defense Secretary Robert Gates not to.
Even so, he said repeal wouldn't go into effect until after the review is finished.

"What we ought to do is repeal it but make the effective date after the report," Levin said today, according to
Roll Call.
Levin To Defy Gates On DADT (Well, Sort Of) [TPM]

A vote of confidence. Now we need some votes of conscience.


**Key votes:

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) [(202) 224-5623]
Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) [(202) 224-4543]
Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) [(202) 224-3954]
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) [(202) 224-6551]
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) [(202) 224-5274]
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) [(202) 224-4024]

**Massive update on the state of things, per SLDN:

BREAKING FROM CNN’S DANA BASH VIA TWITTER MOMENTS AGO: “Levin just dismissed Sec Gates call 4 congress 2 wait on DADT for military review. Said decision 2 move depends on if votes are there.” SECOND TWEET: More levin on gates DADT: "He has favored the repeal and reached that conclusion prior 2 receiving the reason why we can’t."

HOW THE STATE OF REPEAL CHANGED: Nearly two weeks ago, on the evening of Friday, April 30, the Obama Administration shot a simultaneous salvo – from the Pentagon and the White House -- against advocates fighting for repeal this year. In a letter to the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates came out against lifting the ban before the Pentagon's Working Group finishes its DADT study in December. Hours later, the White House issued a statement deferring to Gates. In doing so, President Obama appeared to reverse on the commitment he made during his State of the Union Address when he said: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”

U.S. REP. BARNEY FRANK to ROLL CALL: Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), puts the blame squarely on the president. “I think the president made a big mistake allowing that letter to be sent,” Frank said, adding that he believes repeal can still pass, although “it will give some Members an excuse not to vote for it.” Read more from Roll Call:

--On Monday SLDN issued its second national action alert in less than a week urging members and supporters to call Congressional leaders and the White House and tell them to repeal DADT this year. To view the alert visit:
-- SLDN launched on May 5 an alert calling on President Barack Obama to fully repeal DADT this year. The previous action alert, sent to SLDN’s members and supporters May 5, directed calls to the White House switchboard:

SLDN’S AUBREY SARVIS PENS OP-ED ON WHERE THINGS STAND: “Where Truman led, Obama defers: It's time for President Obama to lead the way for repeal this year of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell'’”
--Key excerpts: “There is a stark and not very flattering contrast here between President Obama, who follows his military, and President Harry S Truman, whose military followed him. In 1948, virtually all of the Pentagon brass was opposed to ending segregation in the ranks. The brass said the troops will never stand for it. After listening to their arguments, Truman looked them in the eyes and did the right thing.”
--“It is becoming clearer every day that where Truman led, Obama is deferring, kicking repeal down the road -- again. As a result of the commander in chief's decision to defer to the defense secretary's wishes and timeline, lesbian and gay service members will continue to be treated as second-class citizens, and any sense of fairness may well have been delayed for yet another year, perhaps for another decade.” --Continue reading:

--Sara Isaacson, a University of North Carolina Army ROTC student and client of SLDN, is on Capitol Hill today meeting with Congressional offices after she was recently discharged by the government for being gay. Isaacson is scheduled to meet with six offices in the North Carolina Congressional delegation.
--The school has informed Isaacson she will need to repay the government the $79,265.14 in student funding provided by her ROTC scholarship.
--From Isaacson: “Our first meeting this morning went very well. I was able to share my story and tell them about my dream to follow my grandfather and become an Army doctor. I think it was beneficial for them to hear it directly from me,” said Sara Isaacson, who was recently discharged from her Army ROTC program. “I believe in living up to the military’s core values of integrity. If I could serve openly and honestly, I’d seriously consider returning to school today and serving my country after graduation.”
--SLDN is contacted by a number of ROTC students every year who are impacted by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Continue reading:

--Today, hundreds of veterans from across the United States descended on Washington, DC with one clear message for Congress: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) needs to go and it needs to go this year!
--The National Veterans Lobby Day on DADT is taking place immediately before the National Defense Authorization bill – the bill that should contain DADT repeal language – is drafted on Capitol Hill.
--For a list of participating organizations visit the website:

STORIES FROM THE FRONTLINES: LETTERS TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA / ONLINE CAMPAIGN GROWS: 43 blogs and websites now participating -- See the full list:

USA TODAY: Obama lobbied on 'don't ask, don't tell' by famous Democratic family
--Read full story:


--“Many of the people we are hearing from are directly connected to an active service member,” said Trevor Thomas, communications director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. “So many people located throughout the country and overseas want to tell their stories. One mother explained that she feels just as closeted as her son after we talked about the concerns of using her own name on a letter. As the President isn’t helping to get the key votes on the Senate Armed Service Committee, we’re going to continue sending letters on the behalf of those who cannot talk openly. We hope their stories are heard.”

--Servicemembers Legal Defense Network launched on April 26 “Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama,” a new media campaign to underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal DADT.
--Every weekday morning as markup of the Defense Authorization bill in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees draws near, a coalition of voices supporting repeal will share an open letter to the President from a person impacted by this discriminatory law.

--SLDN and other coalition voices are urging the President to include repeal in the Administration’s defense budget recommendations, but also to voice his support as we work to muster the 15 critical votes needed on the Senate Armed Services Committee to include repeal.
--The House and Senate Armed Services Committees will markup the Defense Authorization bill in a few short weeks.
--The Defense Authorization bill represents our best legislative vehicle to bringing repeal to the president’s desk. It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993.

--Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), told the Denver Post the committee was “within a vote or two” of including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill. Udall is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
--Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who holds a key position on the House Rules Committee, told the Denver Post he is willing to help insert a similar provision in the House version of the Defense Authorization bill with the help of Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), who is the lead sponsor of the House repeal bill.

--The House Armed Services Committee markup of the Defense Authorization bill is expected May 19.
--The Senate Armed Services Committee markup of the Defense Authorization bill is expected May 27.

--The House may move the Defense Authorization bill for a floor vote as early as the week of May 24.

SPEAKER PELOSI WANTS HOUSE VOTE ON REPEAL -- VIA SPOKESPERSON: “It is the Speaker’s intention that a vote will be taken this year on [‘don’t ask, don’t tell’] in the House.”
--Continue reading at DC Agenda:

U.S. REP. TAMMY BALDWIN EXPRESSES DISAPPOINTMENT WITH PRESIDENT ON REPEAL: From The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld: “Baldwin expressed disappointment with the White House for suggesting that Congress shouldn’t take action until the report is issued and said she wished President Barack Obama would weigh in… Baldwin: “He has the most powerful bully pulpit in the world, and I hope he uses it to advance equality,” she said.

“RARE STRATEGIC DISCUSSIONS” TAKING PLACE ON REPEAL BETWEEN SENATE AND HOUSE: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), to The Advocate: “Particularly on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ there have been strategic discussions already between the House and Senate on how to move that forward because it makes sense to incorporate it as part, ultimately, of the Defense authorization bill,” she said.
--“According to Democratic aides, the offices of Sens. Levin and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Murphy have been coordinating efforts on repeal language so that any attachments to the Defense funding bill will be similar in nature,” The Advocate reported.
--Continue reading:

--The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R.1283), the repeal bill in the U.S. House, has 192 cosponsors.
--U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, chief sponsor “has indicated repeatedly that he has the votes to pass it.” (The Advocate)

-- "The president can make a difference if he’s on the phone with some of these key House members and some of these key senators. Indeed, I would say whether we get this or not could well depend on the leadership that we see from the White House over the next several weeks,” said SLDN’s Aubrey Sarvis.
--Continue reading:

FAITH VOICES SPEAK OUT IN SUPPORT OF REPEAL: A broad coalition of faith voices spoke out recently against the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that prevents some of the best and brightest women and men from serving their country.
--“As military chaplains, we routinely work with service members whose faith traditions and belief systems are different from ours. The idea that repeal of DADT will infringe on our religious liberty is insulting to all the serving chaplains who professionally minister to and with people of diverse beliefs every day,” said Captain John F. Gundlach, a retired Chaplain of the U.S. Navy.
--Continue reading:


--White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs signaled from the podium that the president is likely not going to push for repeal this year.
--From the Advocate: “President Barack Obama is allowing the Department of Defense to run the course of its investigation as to how to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday. The DOD's study is due December 1, suggesting legislative action will likely be ruled out until after the new year.”
--The question was asked by Advocate White House correspondent Kerry Eleveld:


--The Denver Post reported: “Congressional aides said both approaches are likely to face opposition from the White House, which in February laid a timetable built around an extensive Pentagon study that won't be completed until Dec. 1, pushing a final move on the contentious issue past what's expected to be Democrats' toughest election cycle in years.”
--Read the full story by Post reporter Michael Riley:


Listed are senators the coalition is actively engaging to shore up support for repeal this year:

--Scott Brown, MA
--Evan Bayh, IN
--Robert Byrd, WV
--Jim Webb, VA
--Ben Nelson, NE
--Bill Nelson, FL


--January 27, 2010: President Barack Obama tells the American people “this year” he will work to repeal DADT
--State of The Union address transcript: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”


--SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis sent a letter to President Obama on April 19 urging him to include repeal language in his defense budget recommendations.
--Read the letter:
--Key excerpts from the letter:

“As you prepare to send your final defense budget recommendations to the House and Senate committees, this is both the time and place for you to reaffirm your strong commitment to repealing this law. … I am very disturbed by multiple reports from Capitol Hill that your Congressional liaison team is urging some Members of Congress to avoid a vote on repeal this year. The upcoming House and Senate votes will be close, and very frankly, Mr. President, we need your help now.

As a veteran, and on behalf of thousands of men and women who have served and want to serve their country openly, I ask you today to stand by your encouraging words to the American people in your State of The Union address: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”


--After carefully reviewing the new Pentagon Instructions, SLDN’s legal team sent a warning to service members serving right now: “Despite mainstream media reports that service members can no longer be outed by ‘third parties,’ it’s important that the 66,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members understand that they can still be fired under DADT – even if outed by so called ‘third parties.’”
--“We recognize that the new DoD Instructions further define what “credible information from a reliable source” may mean, but based on SLDN’s preliminary analysis, we cannot guarantee that service members are protected.
--The updated language does not change the fact that statements, acts, or same-sex marriage, are still grounds for discharge under DADT, including:

A service member can still be fired if outed by his or her parents;

A service member can still be fired for revealing his or her sexual orientation while making a statement to the police that would prevent or help solve a crime;

A service member’s middle school teacher can still out the service member 10 years after he came out to her in social studies class;

A service member can still be discharged if he reports that someone has threatened to kill him for being gay;

A service member can still be fired for hugging someone of the same sex;

A service member can still be fired for getting married; and

A service member can still be fired for saying she would like to return from Iraq to care for her dying girlfriend.

Continue reading:


--At the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing February 2 – the first to discuss repeal -- Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen made it clear that DADT does not serve in the best interest of our men and women in uniform: "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity - theirs as individuals and ours as a nation.”
--From The Hill’s Roxana Tiron: “The nation’s senior military officials removed a huge obstacle to gays serving openly in the military by telling Congress on Tuesday that they support President Barack Obama’s decision to repeal the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ law.” LINK:


--Current and former military and government leaders are fully behind repeal:

o Secretary of Defense Robert Gates;
o Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen;
o Gen. Raymond Odierno;
o Gen. David Petraeus;
o Vice President Richard Cheney;
o President Bill Clinton;
o Secretary of Defense William Cohen;
o Ret. Marine Corps Gen. James Jones;
o General John Shalikashvili
o General Colin Powell


--In addition, a letter signed by 104 retired admirals and generals was released in late 2008 and included a strong call for repeal:


January 12, 2010: SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis sends a letter to the President asking for repeal to be included in defense budget

“By proposing to repeal the law in your defense bill, you will make it clear to Congress and to the American people that we can eliminate this wrong in 2010,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. (Roll Call, page 11, January 12, 2010)


January 27, 2010: President Barack Obama tells the American people “this year” he will work to repeal DADT

State of The Union address transcript: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”


February 22, 2010: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs dodges question on repeal happening this year

The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: “Senator Lieberman is planning to introduce a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal bill next week. Would the president like to see Congress pass repeal this year?” Gibbs said that he believed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be legislatively repealed, but he stopped short of committing to passing the legislation this year.


March 15, 2010: Rep. Barney Frank says White House does not want repeal done this year

The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld noted to U.S. Rep. Barney Frank that the White House has failed to designate the defense authorization bill over a stand-alone bill as its preferred method for repealing the policy, Frank responded: “That’s because they don’t want it done this year, not because they want it done separately.”


March 15, 2010: Rep. Barney Frank clarifies statement and asks the Administration to “make clear” it supports DADT repeal this year

Later the same day, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank reframed his statement to Ms. Eleveld and released this following statement: “I believe that the Administration should make clear that it supports legislative action this year, and that while implementation is being worked out, it will carry out the policy in the way it was originally intended, which would reduce the number of discharges, in my view, by over 90%."


March 25, 2010: Defense Sec. Robert Gates says he does NOT support legislative action this year

DC Agenda’s Chris Johnson asked Defense Sec. Robert Gates: “Do you support a legislative change to DADT, whether it's a moratorium or outright repeal, this year before the Pentagon completes its study on the issue.”

Secretary Gates: “I do not recommend a change in the law before we have completed our study.”


March 26, 2010: Rep. Barney Frank says the White House is “ducking” on repeal this year

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank speaking to Metro Weekly on the White House working on repeal said: ''They're ducking. Basically, yeah, they're not being supportive, and they're letting Gates be the spokesman, which is a great mistake.''


March 30, 2010: SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis again presses the White House to include repeal in the defense budget

“When Congress comes back next month the White House should make it clear that repeal of DADT this year is a top priority for President Obama. One sure way to send that clear signal is for the President to include repeal language in his defense budget bill going up to Capitol Hill in a few short weeks. The President’s defense budget repeal language should mirror the words in his State of the Union speech to Congress and the American people.”


April 12, 2010: Rep. Barney Frank says he is “frustrated” and “disappointed” with the Administration on DADT repeal

Talking to reporter Karen Ocamb, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank said: “I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed with the administration. …His not being for it will give people an excuse to not vote for it. Thing is – we’ve done hate crimes. We do ENDA. It’s a big agenda all at once. At this point – the President’s refusal to call for repeal this year is a problem."


April 13, 2010: House Majority Leader says he is waiting for direction from the Administration; adds there is no known time line for repeal

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Congressional Quarterly that legislative action on DADT “would await recommendation from the Pentagon, noting that both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said that they support ending the policy.”

The same day, the Advocate reported: “To date, the House has not gotten such a directive from the Pentagon, nor has the White House weighed in on taking legislative action this year. House leaders do not plan “to tie changes to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’” to the Department of Defense authorization bill. Hoyer also said he had no time line yet for consideration of repeal legislation.”


April 14, 2010: The White House releases broad statement on DADT explaining repeal is not “off the table”

“…The Office of Legislative Affairs continues to engage lawmakers, and at no time has the White House asked any Member to take this issue off the table."


April 21, 2010: White House Press Secretary signaled from the podium that the president is likely not going to push for repeal this year

From the Advocate: “President Barack Obama is allowing the Department of Defense to run the course of its investigation as to how to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday. The DOD's study is due December 1, suggesting legislative action will likely be ruled out until after the new year.” The question was asked by Advocate White House correspondent Kerry Eleveld:

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