LGBT Groups Warn Gay Servicemembers: Don't Come Out, Re-enlist Quite Yet
WASHINGTON -- Although both chambers of Congress have now passed a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and the President is expected to sign the legislation into law this week, LGBT advocacy organizations are warning gay and lesbian soldiers not to reveal their sexuality or re-enlist in the military quite yet.
"While the immediate impact of this bill may inspire folks from across the nation, it is important to note that full implementation has yet to take place, and that it is not yet safe for service members to disclose their sexual orientation," wrote the Human Rights Campaign on its blog Saturday afternoon.
Even after Obama signs the repeal into law, he -- along with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Secretary -- must issue a certification stating the Pentagon is prepared to implement the repeal in a manner that won't hurt readiness, effectiveness, cohesion or recruiting. DADT will still be law until 60 days after certification. Until then, therefore, servicemembers are still at risk of being discharged or investigated.
"I respectfully ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to use his authority to suspend all 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' investigations during this interim period," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the advocacy group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "Until the President signs the bill, until there is certification, and until the 60-day Congressional period is over, no one should be investigated or discharged under this discriminatory law."
According to Metro Weekly both Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) endorse this approach.
A Defense Department spokeswoman told the Huffington Post, "The current law remains in effect until certification takes place. As Secretary Gates has said in his statement [yesterday], the Department will immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change carefully, methodically but purposefully." The White House did not return a request for comment.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he will sign on to certification "only after careful consultation with the military service chiefs and our combatant commanders and when I am satisfied that those conditions have been met for all the Services, commands and units." Although several of the service chiefs advocated against repeal during their testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, they all said they were confident they could implement the change and make it work.
"Certification and the 60-day Congressional requirement must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011," Sarvis told ABC News. "The bottom line: for now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously closeted."
During this two-month period, Congress may hold hearings to review the Pentagon's policies and plans for implementation, which would likely re-air many concerns of opponents who were against repealing DADT in the first place.