Mullen's "Measured" Stance Mirrors Position of Obama Administration
Mullen's guarded statements mirror positions that members of the Obama administration, including Obama himself, have taken. Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that rather than moving to repeal DADT, the Obama administration was studying ways to make the policy more "humane" (e.g. declining to discharge individuals who do not voluntarily disclose their sexual orientation to military officials). Also, during the Bush administration and earlier this year, Gates said that the Department of Defense had not moved on DADT because fighting the wars did not leave enough time to address the policy.
In May 2009, White House staff edited WhiteHouse.Gov to indicate that President Obama supports repealing DADT in a "sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security." Previously, the website contained a much longer statement explaining Obama's opposition to DADT. Furthermore, White House staff initially amended the language to state that Obama supported "changing" DADT. After complaints from GLBT activists, however, White House staff edited the website once again to state that Obama supports "repealing" rather than "changing" DADT.
Furthermore, during a recent meeting with GLBT rights activists at the White House, President Obama expressed his own support for a measured path:
[A]s Commander-in-Chief, in a time of war, I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical way and a way that takes over the long term. That's why I've asked the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a plan for how to thoroughly implement a repeal.Obama comments are basically identical to the position that Mullen has espoused.
What Does Mullen Mean By "Impact on our people and their families"?
Although Mullen's comments generally echo the sentiment of the Obama administration, it is unclear how he believes repealing DADT will "impact. . .our people and their families." If Mullen is referring to military personnel, then he is probably only thinking of heterosexual personnel. It is probably safe to assume that most "family members" of gay and lesbian personnel do not support them losing their jobs and therefore favor the repeal of DADT.
But if Mullen truly believes that repealing DADT could negatively impact heterosexuals and their families, then his thinking suffers in three major ways. First, Mullen seems to hold heterosexual soldiers and their families in low esteem. If troops have the fortitude to put their lives at risk, then repealing DADT should not cause them to have a meltdown. They are already serving with closeted gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Simply "knowing" the identity of those individuals who are brave enough to come out, will not imperil servicemembers or their families.
Second, Gates seems to discount the ability of the military to enforce its own rules. The military is a highly regulated machine, and its members' lives are subject to controls that are undesirable and even illegal in civilian settings. Despite the highly regimented nature of military life, Mullen repeats the standard position by DADT supporters which contends that having openly gay, lesbian or bisexual military personnel will overwhelm heterosexuals, rendering them unable to obey rules. It is unclear why Mullen and other military officials should not trust their own enforcement mechanisms on this issue. Once DADT is repealed, military personnel who cannot accept the change should face reprimand (and possible discharge). Those are the rules.
Finally, Mullen's comments place the well being of heterosexuals and their families above the constitutional rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the military. Mullen's suggestion that repealing DADT will significantly impact military personnel and (especially their families) is baseless. Even if Mullen could prove "some" impact, it is not immediately clear why the comfort of antigay heterosexuals should have priority over the Equal Protection Clause. Certainly, the concerns of these individuals' family members cannot trump the Constitution. If Obama embraces this portion of Mullen's comments, he will do serious damage to his already shaky reputation among GLBT activists.