Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ramped up the pressure on the White House and the military to repeal its "don't ask, don't tell" policy with a direct appeal to President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week.
In letters to Gates and Obama dated Sept. 24th and obtained by HuffPost, the Nevada Democrat asks each to "bring to Congress your recommendations on DADT" -- the policy that allows gay or lesbian Americans to serve in the military as long as they don't mention that they are gay or lesbian.
The policy, which is not applied consistently, has nevertheless cost the military valuable soldiers, sailors, pilots and translators.
Reid called for the policy to be repealed earlier this year and former president Bill Clinton, who instituted it, has called it one of his chief regrets.
A legislative fix could be difficult; it is not at all clear that the Senate could find 60 votes to overcome a likely filibuster. Reid, therefore, is calling in Obama.
"As Congress considers future legislative action, we believe it would be helpful to hear your views on the policy," he writes. "Your leadership in this matter is greatly appreciated and needed at this time."
Reid, in the letters, also highlights the plight of two servicemen, one of whom he met when he was the keynote speaker at a recent Las Vegas Human Rights Campaign Gala Dinner. First Lieutenant Daniel Choi was a West Point grad, served in Iraq and was an Arab linguist. In April, he received a discharge letter from the Army after publicly revealing he was gay, Reid writes to Obama.
Lieutenant Colonel Victor Fehrenbach is headed for a "similar fate," Reid tells Obama. He was an 18-year Air Force vet who has flown numerous missions against Taliban and al-Qaida targets, "including the longest combat mission in his squadron's history." The government, Reid notes, has invested $25 million on his training.
Freshman Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has been taking the lead in the Senate on the repeal of DADT. She considered attaching an amendment to undo it to the 2010 defense department appropriations bill, but without 60 sure votes and with Obama taking no clear stand, the effort devolved into a hearing instead.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs has said that the president wants to see the policy repealed, but has other legislative priorities that must be addressed first.
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