by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
After President Obama extended the National Emergency - which began on September 14, 2001 - on September 10, for one year, by issuing a document titled "Continuation of the National Emergency With Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks," experts from The Palm Center research institute noted that the move allows the president additional time to sign an executive order suspending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." According to "stop-loss" statute 10 U.S.C. 12305, Congress has authorized the president to suspend any law regarding military separations during national security emergencies.
"By extending the state emergency," said Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, "the president has given himself more time to suspend the Gay ban via executive order."
On September 10, Obama issued a document titled, "Continuation of the National Emergency With Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks" where he said, "I am continuing for one year the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001."
Belkin, who proposed the idea of suspending the U.S. military's Gay ban known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) by executive order in May, said there's evidence that the legislative process to repeal the policy is badly stalled.
"Because the legislative process is frozen, a two-part strategy is the only realistic way to go," Belkin said. "Start with an executive order, and then follow with legislative repeal."
In a recent Politico.com article, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) says the Senate is swamped and has little time on the schedule for the DADT fight. Also, the Senate's patron saint of the cause, Ted Kennedy (D-MA), died before being able to introduce long-promised bipartisan legislation to overturn the policy. With no Republican co-sponsors for a repeal, key moderate Democrats have remained uncommitted.
Leading opponents of DADT, such as Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), an openly Gay Congressman, said there will be a better chance to overturn the ban next year. The public, however, has become widely opposed to keeping the ban.
A July 2008 poll by the Washington Post and ABC News found that 75% of Americans support allowing Gays to serve openly in the military, up from just 44% in 1993.
Perhaps adding to public frustration is the absence of a big push from the Pentagon leadership and President Obama - who, when running for president, promised to end the ban.
To date, nearly 400 Gay and Lesbian servicemembers have been discharged under the policy since Obama and the 11th Congress were sworn in last January. Since the policy's 1993 implementation, almost 13,000 servicemembers have been discharged.
Belkin isn't just saying the ball is in Obama's court, he's asking, "Where are the LGBT national leaders?" when it comes to a DADT repeal.
"The legislative process is badly stalled. The writing on the wall has been apparent for months," he said, "but some community leaders have been unwilling to acknowledge or even see it."
He said that within weeks after Obama took office, a White House spokesperson told journalists that the White House would begin to study the Gay ban sometime in 2010.
"Not act," he said, "but study."
"How long will community leaders continue to protect the White House from any meaningful pressure to sign an executive order suspending DADT?" Belkin asked in a September 15 blog entry on the Palm Centers' website.
He said there is really only one question our community leaders need to answer: "Do you want Gay troops to serve openly and legally tomorrow, or not?"
The multi-step approach proposed by the Palm Center has been endorsed by the Center for American Progress and a number of other prominent organizations.
The Palm Center is a research institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Center uses rigorous social science to inform public discussions of controversial social issues, enabling policy outcomes to be informed more by evidence than by emotion. Its data-driven approach is premised on the notion that the public makes wise choices on social issues when high-quality information is available. For more information, visit www.palmcenter.ucsb.edu.
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