On Tuesday in the Pentagon auditorium, about 350 rank-and-file troops were picked at random to discuss possible changes if gays are allowed to serve openly, the AP reports.
"Officials say they will spend the next several months reaching out to troops and their families in focus groups and meetings like the Tuesday forum to determine what concerns they'll have to address. Attendees of the Tuesday session said that one female Marine stated that bunking with a lesbian would be the same as being told to share a room with a man. A soldier said he didn't want to wade into the political debate and that he would follow orders. Another service member asked if a gay service member who gets married—now forbidden under law—would receive military family benefits. At one point, a moderator asked how many troops believed they have served with a gay person. About half the people in the audience raised their hands. Attendees described the meeting on condition of anonymity because they said they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue."
Not exactly the ideal "forum" to "reach out" to all troops—gay and lesbian troops cannot discuss their experiences because they could be discharged for revealing their sexuality. ...
Meanwhile: The White House is taking some heat for a controversial Justice Department brief that defends "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and employs an outdated, circa 1993 quote from Gen. Colin Powell, who now supports repealing the policy. The brief was authored by Assistant Atty. Gen. Tony West, who also supervised last summer's highly offensive motion defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
At Tuesday's White House press briefing, The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld grilled Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on the DOJ motion. Is the President concerned, Eleveld asked, that DOJ is "insular or tone-deaf on issues that are sort of politically sticky, especially those of interest to the LGBT community"
Gibbs put some distance between the White House and the Justice Department and said using Powell's 17-year-old testimony was "odd." Said the press secretary: "Obviously the President has enunciated his support for ending 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' rolling back—made a commitment to roll back DOMA in the campaign. Obviously, the Justice Department has—is charged with upholding the law as it exists, not as the President would like to see it. We have obviously taken steps on the front of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' and I think we’ve made a genuine amount of progress. I will say, was it odd that they included previous statements from General Colin Powell on a belief set that he no longer had? I don’t think the President would disagree with that."
AMERICABlog has more analysis on the DOJ brief and a follow-up question on whether President Obama believes DADT is constitutional.
Watch the White House briefing, AFTER THE JUMP ...