'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal Author: We Will Look Back At This Debate With Puzzlement
The day after he helped shepherd legislation through the House that initiates the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.) predicted that the debate over whether openly gay members should serve in the military would seem antiquated in short time.
"I do get that sense," the Pennsylvania Democrat said, when ask if people will look back in puzzlement that the topic once elicited such emotional and political rancor. "I have no doubt in my mind that we're on the right side of history here."
In a brief phone interview with the Huffington Post, Murphy was in a celebratory mood after the amendment he authored passed by a vote of 234-194. Last summer, the congressman had roamed the halls of the Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh telling all those who listened that repeal would come shortly. The confidence seemed overly optimistic at the time. Seventeen years after implementation the policy remained, in some respects, a hot topic to touch politically. Privately, however, an intricate legislative strategy was at play.
Speaking hours after the historic vote, Murphy spoke about the heavy lift it took to get a majority of lawmakers behind the bill, including lobbying sessions with individual representatives and intense discussions with military officials. He called the endorsement of repeal by high-profiled members of the armed forces (Colin Powell and Mike Mullen, specifically) crucial to moving the bill forward. And he disputed the notion that President Obama's heart was never behind the enterprise.
"I think it couldn't be more clear," said Murphy. "The president campaigned on this issue. In his State of the Union address he talked about how we're going to repeal it this year. And we delivered."
The House on Thursday cleared one major hurdle in the process of getting DADT repealed. But others remain. The Senate still needs to pass its own version of Murphy's amendment. And while there is some concern that 60 members will back repeal, several top ranking Democratic officials tell the Huffington Post that the more difficult step was already made: the passage of the amendment through the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Even once it is passed, the actual repeal will have to wait for the Pentagon to conclude its analysis and recommendations about how to modify the law. Gay rights activists have been discouraged by what they see as the slow pace of reform, but Murphy cautioned that the timeline set in place was the best case scenario considering the politics of the debate.
"I think we had concerns in the Senate and we came to a smart agreement which dismantled Don't Ask Don't Tell, but does respect the Pentagon's study group," he said. "Last night was a huge milestone towards repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell and to let every American have the same opportunity I did, for our nation. And it took 15 months of work, a lot of hard work. I know when I took the leadership of this a year ago, I had already met with members on both sides of the aisle, one on one, we went from 140 cosponsors to 192, we got five Republicans to vote with us because, frankly, it's the best thing for our national security..."