In what national gay rights activists called “a dramatic breakthrough,” the White House issued a statement May 24 that supports Congress repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy this year.

The repeal, which at press time May 25 was expected to see votes in the U.S. House and Senate as early as May 26-28, would be enacted after the Pentagon completes a study on how best to implement it.

White House endorses plan to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

“The White House announcement is a dramatic breakthrough in dismantling ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The path forward crafted by the president, Department of Defense officials, and repeal leaders on Capitol Hill respects the ongoing work by the Pentagon on how to implement open service and allows for a vote this week,” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said in a press release.

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a key campaign promise from President Obama to gay voters. DADT opponents, who want legislators to pass the repeal before the end of this Congress, were frustrated when Defense Secretary Robert Gates advised Congress last month to delay “any legislative action” until the Pentagon completes a study of lifting the ban.

That study is not scheduled to be finished until December, leading to fears that a vote would be put off until after the new Congress convenes in January, when vote counts could be affected by the November elections.

The White House responded May 24 to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (Ind. – Conn.) proposed amendment to the 2011 Defense Authorization Act.

The amendment would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” now, but postpone implementation until the Pentagon review is complete and President Obama has certified that he, the Defense Secretary and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have determined that the plan for integrating openly gay service members “is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.”

According to the letter written by Peter Orzag, Director of the Office of Management & Budget, the White House supports Lieberman’s amendment because it “will allow for completion of the Comprehensive Review, [and] enable the Department of Defense to assess the results of the review.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.) was expected to introduce the amendment later this week in the House, while the Senate Armed Services Committee is projected to debate similar legislation on May 27. The Human Rights Campaign called on constituents to lobby Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), a member of the Armed Services Committee.

“We are on the brink of historic action to both strengthen our military and respect the service of lesbian and gay troops,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese in a May 24 press release.

Pelosi: ENDA will also get vote this year

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reassured representatives of several LGBT organizations May 17 that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — which would ban job bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity — and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal will get votes this year.

Pelosi made her comments in an hour-long conference call with leaders of six LGBT groups.

One of the activists who joined in the May 17 phone briefing, Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), said Pelosi, “in no uncertain terms, without any equivocation or evasion, stated several times that ENDA was her priority and that it would move in this Congress — and there was no question.”

Where the Georgia delegation stands:

U.S. House

DADT repeal
District 1: Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah)
No No
District 2: Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany)
No No
District 3: Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Grantville)
No No
District 4: Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Lithonia)
Yes Yes
District 5: Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta)
Yes Yes
District 6: Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell)
No No
District 7: Rep. John Linder (R-Duluth)
No No
District 8: Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Macon)
No No
District 9: VACANT
District 10: Rep. Paul Broun (R-Athens)
No No
District 11: Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta)
No No
District 12: Rep. John Barrow (D-Savannah)
No No
District 13: Rep. David Scott (D-Atlanta)
No No

U.S. Senate

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Moultrie)
No No
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Marietta)
No No

Source for LGBT positions: / Compiled by Laura Douglas-Brown

— Lisa Keen contributed