Aubrey Sarvis

  • September 21, 2010
    Supporters of ending the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," policy are expressing dismay and promising perseverance in the face of the Senate's refusal to vote on ending the policy, which bars lesbians and gay men from serving openly in the military.

    Senate Republicans obstructed an effort to debate the defense authorization bill, which includes a provision to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," The New York Times reports. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the newspaper reports, "switched his vote to no at the last minute, a procedural maneuver that allows him to call for a revote." Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, "We should not deny the opportunity to take up the bill, which is essential for the men and women in the military because we disagree with some of the provisions in the bill."

    Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a leading organization in the efforts to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," said in a press statement, "Today's Senate vote was a frustrating blow to repeal this horrible law. We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the midterm elections. Let's be clear: Opponents to repealing ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' did not have the votes to strike those provisions from the bill. Instead, they had the votes for delay. Time is the enemy here. We now have no choice but to look to the lame duck session where we'll have a slim shot. The Senate absolutely must schedule a vote in December when cooler heads and common sense are more likely to prevail once midterm elections are behind us. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network will continue to take this fight to the American people, the vast majority of whom support repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"

    The Palm Center, a research group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which has published reports on the ineffectiveness of the policy, also lamented the Senate's action. Christopher Neff, deputy executive director of the Palm Center, said, "Discharges and discrimination will continue because of today's vote in the Senate. This was not just a vote on whether to end a filibuster. This was a vote on the Senate floor on whether to end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the U.S. Military."

    Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a press statement, that lawmakers are once again "playing politics with people's lives. Filibustering the defense authorization bill to block action on ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal ... is a disappointment and disservice to our country."

    The Family Research Council, a lobbying group for religious conservatives, praised the senate action, specifically lauding "Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator John McCain and Senator Jim Inhofe for their successful efforts to stop this legislation which would not only force open homosexuality on the military but also turn our military hospitals into abortion clinics."

    For more on the efforts to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," watch video of an ACS panel discussion here.

  • September 14, 2010
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced he'll soon bring the yearly Pentagon authorization bill, including a provision to repeal the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," (DADT) policy, to the Senate floor. DADT bars lesbians and gay men from serving openly in the military and has resulted in scores of service members being kicked out. Last week, a federal judge in California ruled the policy violates the constitutional rights of gay service members.

    The New York Times reports that some Republicans are girding to block the repeal provision. According to the newspaper, Sen. John McCain a senior member of the Armed Services Committee will try to block the measure because "he said the White House is moving to repeal ‘don't ask, don't tell,' without properly gauging the impact on battle readiness and troop morale."

    While civil liberties groups pushing for repeal of DADT, lauded Reid's announcement, they also sounded a note of caution over efforts to stymie or defeat the repeal provision.

    Aubrey Sarvis, an Army veteran and executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group that has long worked to repeal DADT, said in a press statement, "Repeal proponents may well need 60 votes in the Senate to get to this important debate in September. We are now in the final stretch and we must prevail. Repeal supporters should not stop calling their senators. Sen. John McCain has been a strong and vocal opponent from the start and it is critical that we beat back any filibuster threat, defeat attempts to strike repeal, and defeat any crippling amendments."

    See video of an ACS panel discussion, in which Sarvis participated, regarding the history of DADT and the repeal efforts. For analysis on the impact on DADT see the Palm Center's research here.

  • September 10, 2010
    The federal court decision that the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," (DADT) policy is unconstitutional is unlikely to dampen efforts to repeal it. The decision issued late yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips said the policy subverts the Constitution's First and Fifth Amendments. But the decision, as reported by The New York Times, will not immediately change the policy. Parties in the lawsuit were encouraged by the judge to file briefs supporting and opposing a proposed injunction of the ruling. Judge Phillips wrote, "The don't ask, don't tell policy infringes on the fundamental rights of United States service members in many ways. In order to justify the encroachment of these rights, defendants faced the burden at trial of showing the don't ask, don't tell act was necessary to further the government's important interests in military readiness and unit cohesion. Defendants failed to meet that burden."

    Aubrey Sarvis, head of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a group involved in urging Congress to repeal DADT, said, "We're pleased by the judge's decision, but this decision is likely to be appealed and will linger for years. Congress made the DADT law 17 years ago and Congress should repeal it. The Senate will have the opportunity to do just that this month and most Americans think the Senate should seize it."

    Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said in a press statement that the ruling "affirms what so many of us already know: ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' should end, and for good reason: it is discriminatory, outdated and unfair." She continued, "Our nation's political leaders must end this unjust law once and for all. The lives and livelihoods of dedicated service members hang in the balance."

    The Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which has produced reams of material on the ineffectiveness of DADT, said the ruling should add pressure to lawmakers to repeal the law.

    Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin called the decision "historic," and said it "makes clear that there is no legal or military justification for banning gay service in the military. It now comes down to the Senate in September. A vote on the Defense Authorization bill would allow the Pentagon to put forward a new policy of non-discrimination in 2011."

    For a detailed history of DADT and the efforts to repeal it see video of an ACS panel discussion, which includes Sarvis and Nathaniel Frank, a leading researcher and author about DADT. Frank talked with ACSblog following the event about DADT and its effect on the military and gay service members. His interview is available here.