On Tuesday morning, the Senate Armed Services Committee was scheduled to hold a nuts and bolts budget hearing, but those plans have been scrapped due to the resurgence of the President's intention to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
According to the Senate web site, a full hour, and possibly more, will be spent on how to make the acceptance of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the military a reality. And if this is complicated, I can't imagine how taking up the subject of transgendered military personnel would fare. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will unveil the Pentagon's plan for repealing that law. In addition to Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen will also testify.
"The Defense Department leadership is actively working on an implementation plan and the secretary will have more to say about this next week," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said yesterday. I called the office of US Representative John Olver (who represents the Berkshires) for a reaction, but their Washington office (where his press spokesman is located) is closed until Monday. I hope to get a local reaction for a follow up story.
One thing we can be sure of is that this will not be a quick process. Already the radical right is ratcheting up the noise machine, from John McCain to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Conway, who are dead set against gays in the military. They often use softer language about "unit cohesion" but their unreasonable fear of lesbians and gays in the military is clear.
In terms of the Senate, John Kerry will vote to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But newly elected Mass. Senator Scott Brown is another story. Brown opposes "gay marriage" and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and supports the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
And let's not kid ourselves, either. Making the military more reflective of our nation as a whole has been exceedingly difficult. We still have far too many racial incidents, and women in the military are often preyed upon by the men. Still changing from an all white, all male institution to a fully integrated one has been remarkably successful.
As my brother-in-law, the retired Admiral once explained to me: "The resistance is not so much from the young officers and men, but from the old line Infantry types who see the military in different terms." For several years now, public opinion polls have showed a majority of Americans favor integrating gays into the military.
The problem comes when you break down this support which is skewed to women and younger voters. A majority of the older men who make up the military and political leadership are horrified at the prospect and will fight it tooth and nail. Fox and the firebrand radio talk jocks will have a field day with it. Rush Limbaugh could probably go on for a week with pot stirring hate talk.
This all comes as a response to President Obama's State of the Union speech - and the serious needling he has been getting from his LGBT supporters for not following through on his campaign promises to repeal the ridiculous sssshhhh! policy.
Tuesday is another step on the road to integrating gays into the military. Let's hope it is one that goes forward, not backward.