During the State of the Union Address, President Obama repeated an often-repeated promise to work to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. DADT is the name of the military policy, embodied in a federal statute, that discriminates against known gay, lesbian or bisexual members of the military.
Although Obama promised to get rid of the policy during his presidential campaign, many GLBT groups have complained that he has pushed this and other issues to the backburner. Accordingly, his recent statements promising yet again to end the policy have caused some observers to anticipate a shift in direction.
Today, however, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held a press conference during which he indicated that the repeal of the policy would not take place in the near future -- unless, of course, Congress acts more rapidly than the timeline of the Obama administration. In the typical Obama style of announcing long "studies" before actually changing policies, Gates (and Joint Chiefs Chair Mike Mullen) asked for eleven months to study "how" to end the policy before taking any concrete action.
Some civil rights activists will likely complain that the Obama administration is foot-dragging. Republicans, however, are upset that the administration's study proceeds with the understanding that the policy will end -- rather than questioning whether the military should abandon it.
Bottom line: Today's press conference represents the first time in history that a sitting Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs Chair have endorse an end of the policy. Accordingly, the meeting was historic. Although the statements of Gates and Mullen are historic, the announcement regarding the study is not. Exactly one year ago, the Boston Globe published an article which stated that President Obama would direct military officials to study the implications of lifting the ban. Today, the military will begin studying the implications of lifting the ban for yet another year. I suspect that many pro-GLBT activists will construe the recent move as constituting more delay.
Update: Yes -- at least one GLBT activist has described the recent announcement as more delay. See: 'Don't Ask' on slow road to repeal?
Other DISSENTING JUSTICE articles related to DADT:
Obama Administration's "Measured" Approach to Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Kinder, Gentler Discrimination: Obama Administration Trying to Make "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" More "Humane"
Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Hold Your Breath
Stonewalling on Don't Ask, Don't Tell? No Action Until 2010
Robert Gates as Obama's Secretary of Defense: "More of the Same" for Gay Rights
Legal Showdown Looming Over Don't Ask, Don't Tell: What Will the Obama Administration Do?
Don't Ask, Don't Tell Heats Up in Courts and in Congress