Details of the measure to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Questions and answers about the compromise that could end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the 1993 law prohibiting gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

Why is this vote coming up now?

Activists and supporters of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” fear that Republicans will make enough gains in November to block a repeal in the next Congress. The activists pushed lawmakers and the White House to add an amendment repealing the ban to this year’s Defense Authorization Act, which is moving through Congress.

Does the compromise immediately lift the ban on gays serving openly?

No. It will not be lifted at least until the Pentagon finishes its study, which is due Dec. 1. Also, the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify that lifting the repeal would not adversely affect military readiness. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, support lifting the ban but want the repeal to be implemented slowly.

Does the military support the compromise?

No and yes. The leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines have come out in opposition to the compromise and say no repeal should be passed until the Pentagon finishes its review. Gates announced he would prefer to wait but has reluctantly backed the compromise. Mullen said he supports the compromise because of the “trigger” provision that does not put the repeal into place until he makes his certification that it would not impair military readiness.

Are Democrats united in supporting the repeal?

Not in the House. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the influential chairman of the Armed Services Committee, opposes the compromise, as do several other conservative House Democrats. But in the Senate, at least one key conservative Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he would back the compromise.