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An Interview with

Senator Mark Udall
(Democrat - Colorado)

by Denny Meyer

Senator Mark Udall of Colorado is one of the leading proponents of repealing the Don't Ask Don't Tell law, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.  In late October, Senator Udall took the time to answer the following questions from Gay Military Signal about the progress of DADT repeal.  He also answered our question about the frustration our voters feel about the repeal being stalled in the Senate.

Gay Military Signal:  Do you believe that the DADT policy could be ended by the Judicial Branch of government, much as American racial segregation was ended more than 50 years ago?

Senator Mark Udall: A U.S. District Court judge has already found the law unconstitutional and harmful to national security.  However, I believe the best, most direct and cleanest way to permanently end the law is for Congress to repeal it, and I'm a co-sponsor of the measure in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act that would do that.  In light of the important national security concerns, I've urged the Administration not to pursue the appeal of the U.S. District Court ruling to give Congress the opportunity to bring real finality to the issue.

GMS: Please provide your perspective on the possibility of the Senate passing the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) in December with the inclusion of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal amendment – without changes to the current amendment.

Senator Udall: As an original co-sponsor of the provision that would repeal DADT, I'm going to fight as hard as I can in November and December to pass the NDAA and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  Republicans may continue to filibuster the NDAA during the lame-duck session, but that's not going to cause me and other Democrats to back down on this critically important issue.

GMS:  Please comment, providing your personal overview (a.) morally and (b.) politically, on the issue of ending the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and allowing gay and lesbian patriotic American volunteers to serve openly in our armed forces.

Senator Udall:  For me, the issue of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is first and foremost one of national security, and I'm not alone in that -- Defense Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen have both publicly advocated for repeal on those grounds.  We're in the ninth year of our war in Afghanistan, and we have thousands of troops still stationed in Iraq and across the globe.  This is not the time to be dismissing otherwise-qualified men and women who want to serve.  For every person discharged after 10 years of service, six new service members have to be recruited to fill his or her level of experience.  I've talked to veterans and active duty troops, and it's clear that DADT harms our military's readiness as well as the morale and cohesiveness of our armed forces.  It weakens our military, and it's an ineffective use of our government resources and our taxpayers' dollars.

GMS:  Many voters are disenchanted in general, and Democratic voters, who had high hopes that the current Congress and Administration would achieve progress on issues such as ending the DADT policy, are disgruntled as we approach the upcoming elections in November.  What can you tell those voters, now, (beyond platitudes), to vote to maintain the Democratic Majority in Congress despite their extreme disappointment of expectations.  What can they expect in regard to ending the DADT policy if they vote for Democrats; what can they expect in that regard if they either don’t vote at all or vote for Republicans.

Senator Udall:  Denny, I understand the impatience out there.  I've spoken at length on the Senate floor and in interviews about my own frustration with the level of partisan, election-year gridlock in the Senate.  Republicans have set the record for the number of times they have blocked legislation.  The Senate was designed to be the world's greatest deliberative body -- but if we don't deliberate, where does that leave us?  It was obstruction by the minority party, and nothing else, that prevented us from even debating the substance of the provision to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- much less actually voting on it or any of the other aspects of the National Defense Authorization Act.  As I said before, I'm focused on November and December, when we have an opportunity to take up the NDAA again, and I'm fighting as hard as I can to repeal DADT.  I would tell voters: don't give up yet, add your voices, let your Senators know the importance of passing the NDAA.  Together, we can get it done.

  2010 Gay Military Signal