Top military official Admiral Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates testified Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that they believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, declarations in support of President Obama's vow to repeal the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
The bold statements from Mullen and Gates forecast a serious move to change the policy, finally acting on years of hopeful campaigning from gay rights groups and liberal legislators pushing against the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" agenda. Experts are divided over what the White House should do next, and what this means for the future of gays in the military:
- Mullen and Gates' testimony marks a "seismic shift in our country's sordid history around 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" Joe Solmonese writes for the Huffington Post. Their support for repealing the policy means America is now debating "how, not if this policy will be repealed," he writes, signaling a light at the end of the "long, grueling tunnel" for policy protestors.
- Repealing "DADT" must be done quickly, Aaron Belkin writes for the New York Times, saying Obama's "tentativeness" to combat the policy with sweeping reform is unwise. "By slow-rolling the repeal process over a number of years, the Obama administration will expose the military to operational risks that could otherwise be avoided," he writes.
- All the talk about pulling back "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" means nothing unless it's backed up with decisive -- and effective -- action, Katie Connolly writes for Newsweek, saying the gay community is "weary" after spending years hoping the policy would be repealed. "The repeal is not a fait accompli," Connolly writes, "and many proponents won't believe it till it happens."
- The announcement is a game-changer, but doesn't pose a serious political risk for Obama the way it did for former President Clinton, Jan Crawford writes for CBS News' Crossroads blog. Passing legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" isn't as landmark as it is natural, reflecting a 21st century, modern military mindset: "Times have changed. And the military can reflect that," Crawford writes.
- No matter what action is taken, Mullen and Gates' frank declarations will open a forum for "honset, candid and full-throated" discussion about "DADT," John R. Guardiano writes for the American Spectator. "Our servicemen and women -- and the American people whom they serve -- deserve a fully informed and honest debate," Guardiano writes. "Bring it on."