The Complexities of Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's a Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. This morning on the Brian Lehrer Show, Kevin Baron, Pentagon reporter for Stars and Stripes, joins Michelle McCluer, executive director of the National Institute of Military Justice at American University Washington College of Law, to discuss the implementation and possible complications that will arise around the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

On November 30th, the Defense Department published their report on the issues associated with a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and on Saturday, it was repealed. But there are still plenty of unknowns to talk about around dropping DADT.

For instance, when it comes to harassment, Michelle McCluer says that what already happens in the military to manage this will likely continue. Among the measures, for example, are yearly trainings on harassment issues.

There is already built into that, a component of not harassing people because you think that they're homosexual.. I think that would be beefed up quite a bit under the new policy, but ... I think that the response from the military is going to be, deal with it.

The responsiblity of this transition lies with the military leadership, McCluer says. Kevin Baron agrees and adds that this isn't a completely unfamiliar time for the military. During racial integration, and when women were first permitted to serve, there was always talk of soldiers refusing to re-enlist as a result. This time around will some soldiers not re-enlist with the integration of openly-gay service members in the military?

The Pentagon thinks, based on the report that no, there's not going to be a wave of people exiting rather than re-enlisting... the report says, historically this just didn't happen and they're not afriad that it's going to happen despite the statements of Congressmen and others who say they've heard the same thing by some of their commanders, so we'll have to just wait and see.

McCluer also sees the similarity between the upcoming integration and previous integrations in the military, but also sees one big difference.

When you talk about integrating females or integrating the races, that was something that was visible...and I submit that it may actually be less of a disruptance, less upheaval in the military with this change because unless an individual basically outs themselves, it's not as if everyone can go around, even if the policy changes, and say, who do you want to sleep with... so I really think there's going to be less of a problem, less of an issue than the historical context we brought up.

According to McCluer, another unknown is for the group of discharged individuals who were involuntarily separated because of DADT who now, after its' repeal, want to re-enlist. These folks may still have a hurdle to jump.

They usually have a code that will not permit them to re-enlist in the military... but getting that code changed, and whether that's going to be, if the Pentagon is going to say that needs to be a case by case basis or whether it's going to be a blanket, we're going to change everybody's re-enlistment code who was kicked out under the policy. That's all up in the air at this point.

Baron says there's also a handful of legal opportunities ahead.

Everything from on base housing, when a couple, married couple, a gay couple will not get any of these benefits because...can they list their partner as next of kin if they get injured or killed? What will happen when the first transgendered person walks onto the recruiting site? You know, there are a lot of issues like that that people have really kicked the can on and we'll see how many of them the advocacy groups want to test.