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November 25, 2014

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John Ensign signals support for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

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Justin M. Bowen

U.S. Sen. John Ensign visits ITT Technical Institute in Henderson on Aug. 31. Ensign has recently signaled he might support repealing a ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Sun Coverage

Sen. John Ensign may be about to play a role he doesn’t take on too often in the Senate — the swing vote Democrats need to get a filibuster-proof majority.

In a letter sent to constituents and obtained by the Washington Post, Ensign signaled that he supported a repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military. (RELATED: Election Commission won’t punish John Ensign for cash to mistress)

“It is my firm belief that Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be able to fight and risk their lives in defense of this great nation," Ensign wrote in the letter, partially reprinted in the Post.

Support for the end of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" doesn’t necessarily translate into a vote for the repeal, however.

Congress voted against moving forward on the defense authorization bill in September, a vote that hinged mostly on lawmakers’ feelings about a repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," which was written into the bill.

Maine Republican Susan Collins said then that she supported the concept of a repeal, but would vote against it because she didn’t like the tactics Democrats were using to limit the number of amendments that could be attached to the legislation.

Ensign did mention in the letter that he’s still waiting for the Defense Department to conclude its official survey of the military’s attitudes about repealing the policy.

The report from that survey is due out Dec. 1; a schedule that may free up other GOP lawmakers as well to back the repeal without having to fully pivot away from their previous positions. Many Republicans said they preferred to reserve judgment about repealing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" until the survey was complete.

Early leaked results indicate that about 70 percent of respondents felt ending the policy would not affect the military negatively.

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  1. This is a good move by Ensign. However, passing the Murphy amendment simply sets the stage for repeal, which is dependent on additional clauses within the amendment.

    "Amendment repeals "Don't Ask Don't Tell" only after: (1) receipt of the recommendations of the Pentagon's Comprehensive Review Working Group on how to implement a repeal of DADT (due December 1, 2010) and (2) a certification by the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and President that repeal is first, consistent with military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion & recruiting, and second, that the DoD has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to implement its repeal. The amendment also includes a 60 day period after certification before the repeal takes effect."

    Ensign, Murkowski, and Lugar have all signaled they are willing to move forward, provided they agree with the amendment process when the bill is brought to the floor. Expect Collins and Snowe to join as well if they are amendable to the process.

    This is long overdue, and Ensign deserves credit for representing the overwhelming majority of Nevadans who think it's time for this discriminatory policy to end.

  2. Could it be that Ensign actually has figured out his own hubris? Probably not. As for Susan Collins, when will others learn what Harry Reid figured out a long time ago: she and Olympia Snowe are gutless.

  3. Fine, if Ensign wants to repeal DADT then the next logical step is to have men and women soldiers in the same housing as when I was in the US Army I did not know whether the person next to me, in training, was a heterosexual or homosexual male, however, since this policy is to repealed and the soldier now tells me that he is a homosexual, and thus may have sexual motives in living in a male barrack, then why not have males and females living together in the barracks? Or the alternative is to have separate barracks for each sexual orientation which will cause more housing expense obviously. If one chooses the cohabitation of all sexes, males, homosexuals and females living in the same quarters then I guess it will lead to happier life in the armed forces.

  4. "In fact, more women get removed from the battlefield via being knocked up on the job then get removed by battlefield casualty."

    That's a phenomenal argument for letting more gay men and women serve openly, James. Pregnancy isn't an issue.

    Thanks for the support.

  5. I don't believe him.

    Look at Senator Ensign's past record. He has voted no ALL the time. He marches in lockstep with the Republican Party on ALL matters.

    He will vote no on this one too.

    Look at his wording. He "might" vote for it. He "supports" DADT. That don't mean anything. How many times have we seen Republicans say they "support" something, but then when the vote is cast, they vote no.

    It's all deflection. He is trying to build a case for re-election. So, he's throwing stuff out there, hoping people believe one thing, while he does another.

    I just hope somebody gets the ball rolling to boot this guy out of office. Either that or bring him up on corruption charges.

    Nevada voters need a better Senator. Not this sleaze bucket.

  6. DADT *can* pass as long as it isn't on the same bill as the DREAM act. Republicans will never allow DREAM to go through, no matter what it is attached to.

    The best chance Reid has to get DADT is to keep it on the funding bill but take DREAM off, as he has indicated he might do. At that point, there are at least three potential swing votes from the Republican side to break a filibuster, and quite possibly more. Hell, DADT might even pass as a stand alone bill, which would be the best way if possible.

  7. Maybe, just maybe, we might have a Senator out of this ordeal who can truly be genuine to his constituants instead of the "holier than though" mentality that has gripped some of the Reublican and Democrat parties.
    The Senator is possibly a more humble person from his experiance.
    I read today that the Senator may yet be open to the idea of repealing "Dont Ask Don't Tell". This would be the kind of LEADERSHIP that is so sorely missing in Washinton. Imagine. A conservative like Senator Ensign actually studying the harm that DADT has done to our military and working towards ending this horrible policy which has cost so many patriotic Americans their military careers because they were outed as gay.
    Perhaps now, our Senator can be able to look beyond the dogma of Washington and be a Senator who will think independantly about his country and constituants instead of saying "no" to evertything just because the Republican leadership tells him to.
    Stuart & Robert Wyman-Cahall
    Las Vegas, NV 89142

  8. You are saying John Ensign is showing signs of support for DADT because of a WaPo report?

    How did you manage to miss all the local news breaking right under your nose? It was on The Rachel Maddow Show long before it was on the pages of WaPo

    Wake up NV press corps!

  9. windycityfan23,

    Would you prefer four sets of barracks instead of just two? One for straight males, straight females, gay males and lesbian females? That would add to our ballooning debt.

    How about this, how about just one set of barracks for everyone, that way almost everyone can be uncomfortable until they learn it's just a human body that we've all seen before.

    Have you forgotten what it was like the first time you had to shower in PE?

    I'm a vet, and I say repeal DADT!

  10. Windycityfan, you serve alongside gay service members right now. You acknowledged this.

    You probably shower with gay service members right now.

    Why do you think these men and women would act ANY differently if DADT is repealed?

    DADT doesn't stop sexual predators, gay or straight. DADT doesn't somehow magically grant you privacy in communal showers (Why you think there's any expectation of privacy in communal showers is another issue altogether). DADT doesn't prevent you from sleeping in a bunk next to the bunk of a gay/bisexual man.

    DADT is a discriminatory law built to persecute soldiers for being honest.

    "Trust and unit cohesion are far more important in a unit's ability to conduct operations in matters of life and death than a person pride in their sexual orientation. It allows us to depend on each other so that we can do our job. It is about the greater good for the greatest amount of people."

    You've already admitted that there are gays and lesbians serving currently. All DADT does is needlessly persecute current soldiers. The military will not change when it is repealed.

    I'm a little worried that you think the current situation, where some of your fellow soldiers are lying to your face, fosters the type of trust and cohesion that you claim to want to protect.

    Gay, lesbian and bisexual soldiers are just as professional as you and should be given the same respect you are given... no more and no less.

  11. Windycityfan, those four classifications (weight, pregnancy, parenthood, drug abuse) all detrimentally affect the ability of the soldier to do their job.

    Being gay or lesbian does not affect one's ability to do one's job, that's why DADT is in effect in the first place. It allows individuals of those sexual orientations to serve, so long as they do not reveal their sexual orientation. By definition, the policy concedes that gay, lesbian and bisexual troops are just as competent as you are.

    Further, while 9,501 individuals were discharged, that is not the total number of GLBT troops. You also need to figure out the difference between being discharged and being separated under the UCMJ.

  12. "You miss the point of DADT. What we don't know, doesn't hurt us. The military is characterized by forced intimacy with little or no privacy. Now you want to add sexual tension to the mix? I am 1 person among many. The numbers speak for themselves."

    What you don't know? But you stated you know you serve alongside gay and lesbian soldiers. You DO know, therefore you can't claim ignorance.

    There will be no more "sexual tension" after the repeal than there is now. Your communal showers already include gay men, by your own admission.

    It makes zero sense for you to claim trust and cohesion when you're advocating a policy which demands dishonesty and lies from those you serve alongside.

  13. Windycityfan, I can't help you with your hangups. You have this weird preconception that every gay person wants to touch you or hit on you, have sex with you, or stare at you in the shower. You should take the time to speak to some of those gay friends you claim to have and claim to trust.

    You might also read this:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-be...

    If another member of the military makes an unwanted sexual advance toward you, male or female, you have recourse. Given that there are gay men in the military currently, as you stipulated, and they have not cravenly tried to molest you, I'm flabbergasted as to why you think, if DADT was repealed, why this would change.

    I'm still unclear as to why you can trust someone who is lying to you, but can't trust someone who is being honest with you. That's counter intuitive.

    Trust is built upon respect, and since you seem to have no respect for GLBT soldiers, the person who is damaging cohesion and trust is you, not the gay solider.

  14. As for your Army Times survey numbers, you might want to take another look at their findings.

    Here's a snippet from the article:

    "Similar debates have surfaced in other countries that recently lifted in the ban, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Israel, Segal said."

    "None of the dire consequences that were expected occurred," Segal said. "My sense is, and this is just impressionistic, it was more peaceful than the gender integration of the military."

    Those countries all had similar polls, and when the ban on serving was lifted, there was no mass exodus. None of those militaries suffered difficulties recruiting.

    All of the scare tactics and fear amounted to nothing.

    Frankly: I don't believe the figures you quote.

  15. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was put in place NOT to punish anyone - but to avoid a conflict of interest and concern. Under DADT the military doesn't know, and could care less, WHO a Gay person is. They are allowed to serve if they don't broadcast any deviant behavior. Further, being Gay in the military is NOT lying, or being dishonest - because the DADT rule excludes the posibility of having to "come out" - if you keep your trap shut.

    As long as Gay's don't feel they have a "compulsion" to TELL someone that they are Gay - and by doing so violate the rule that explicity tells them to not bring attention to themselves - they CAN STAY in the military. Isn't that the objective that Gays want to accomplish? They have it now. So, all this chatter that Gay's should be allowed to serve their country "OPENINGLY" - is ALREADY AVAILABLE. If they Just follow the DADT rule - just like any other military rule (and there are a lot of them) a Gay person will be just fine - and welcome too.

    On the other hand, if a service member choses to open their mouth - and admit they are Gay - it is a VIOLATION of the rule that is trying to ensure non-discrimination for all Gay people who may be in the military. And thus, it subjects the a Gay person to being discharged - if they CHOOSE to VIOLATE THE DADT RULE.

    It is all a matter of self-discipline. We should note that everyone has different proclivities - other than being Gay. But people don't express such "quirks to others, for many reasons; embarrassment, disfavor, job security, shame, guilt in letting your wife or husband know, a violation of the law, etc.

    If I were Gay I sure as hell would not jeprodize my career and livelihood, just so I could broadcast that I was Gay. SO this DADT issue seems to come down to a "matter of principle" for Gay's, because they don't want to be RESTRICTED from TELLING the "world" know that they are Gay. They knew DADT existed before they joined up.

    But what do Gay people think they will gain by telling anyone they are Gay? NOTHING - except perhaps, to find out who else is Gay. Believe it or not, the majority is supposed to rule this country, and service members should not have to be concerned about seemingly innocent, yet awkward solicitations because of a comment like: "I thought we had a moment." THAT is also what DADT is designed to prevent: a conflict of interest, and to protect both sides.

  16. As a retired Navy Veteran, I worked for a law enforcement agency in the military during one of my tours overseas back in the 1990s. We used to actively seek out gays, getting other servicemembers to wear wires recording all the grisly details of an alternative lifestyle in order to build up a case to drum them out of the military.

    Please don't misunderstand me. A lot of us disagreed with this policy. We hated doing this. But they told us to do it, we saluted sharply and marched up the hill. It was a waste of time, taking our efforts away from crime prevention and regular law enforcement efforts in the military. But we had to do it. We signed contracts.

    But then, in the early 1990s, DADT happened. And we were told no more active pursuit. But if something was revealed during an ongoing active investigation of something else, then we would stop, document it, turn it over to the command. No more targeting of gays and lesbians by starting an investigation solely based on that.

    We were relieved when this happened. Sanity prevailed.

    Only thing I want to say is this...the over-the-top examples mentioned by other commenters are really not much to worry about. For example, the transgender thing just doesn't happen. And if it does happen? There are other Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Articles that pertain to enforcement of that issue.

    This staring at genitals thing is stupid. The writer of that is fearmongering. Because when you are in the military, everyone is a professional. And we treat each other as professionals. The close proximity situation cannot be alleviated. You work with it. When I went to take a shower, I was more interested in getting clean than I was worrying about some knucklehead checking out my privates.

    All I know is that the government has deferred to the military on this issue. The higher ups in the military all want it done away with. And a study has been performed, parts of it leaked, and it basically says it can be done.

    But Congress Republicans are in the way. They say there are against it. Then they say they will be for it, but only after a study is done. The study is done and they are STILL against it. They are for it. They are against it. They were for it before they were against it. They were against it before they were for it.

    Something's gotta give. And I agree with the President in saying that Congress needs to get this thing done. We need a unified military. Not a divided one. This whole DADT thing is starting to rip apart effectiveness in the military.

  17. Good for you, Ensign!

    "You don't need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight." -- Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)

  18. If someone wants to join the military and fight to protect me, you, our neighbors and country , I couldn't care less what his/her race, religion or sexual orientation is. To me, unless they are like that crazy Hassan guy, they are all heroes who deserve our admiration and respect.

  19. Why has John softened on family values??? Mrs. Ensign and Mrs. Hampton ...?? Maybe they got together and changed his mind....