Tuesday, November 10, 2009

'Don't Ask' repeal likely part of 2011 defense budget bill - By CHRIS JOHNSON, Washington Blade

The effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will likely come next year as an amendment to the Defense Department spending bill, rather than through a standalone bill, according to gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Photo

Frank said in an interview with the Blade that repealing the 1993 law barring gays from serving openly in the military would happen as part of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill.

“The House will take up and the Senate will take up ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal,” he said. “That will again, like hate crimes, even more so, will have to be done, I believe, in the context of the defense authorization. You can’t do the standalone bill. It belongs in the defense authorization.”

Frank said lawmakers would seek to amend the defense measure to include a provision repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Such a move would mimic the way Congress recently enacted the hate crimes measure.

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) is the sponsor of the standalone version of legislation in the House that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” No such legislation exists in the Senate, although Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) has said he’s in talks with the Obama administration on the issue.

Asked about Frank’s prediction for the repeal strategy, Allison Herwitt, legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, said her organization “always takes its cues from its congressional allies.”

“They’re the ones that write the legislation and obviously [the defense authorization] would be a great bill to have repeal be a part of,” she said. “That’s where it should be.”

David Stacy, HRC’s senior public policy advocate, noted that Congress enacted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993 as part of a defense authorization bill, so repealing the law via the same vehicle would mirror the process.

But Kevin Nix, spokesperson for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said while passing a repeal as part of the defense authorization bill is a possibility, his organization is still “looking at all options,” including a standalone bill.

Nix also said SLDN is urging President Obama to include repeal as part of his defense budget request, which is expected to be delivered to Congress early next year.

Whether or not Congress will take up the proposed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal next year was recently brought into question by comments Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate assistant majority leader, reportedly made to The Hill newspaper… Read complete article - By CHRIS JOHNSON, Washington Blade

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