Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin told reporters this morning at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that he supports surveying troops about the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ban on LGBT people in the military. Levin said it can’t hurt to take the temperature of military rank-and-file, but cautioned that troops should not feel like they can influence the policy’s outcome.
“The military is not a democracy,” Levin said. He also said he “can understand the resentment in the gay community” about the phrasing of the survey.
Levin (D-MI) predicted a filibuster over the Defense Authorization measure over the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal would be highly unlikely this fall. He said he doubts senators who oppose the repeal would block legislation that also approves funding for troops and military benefits, especially since the repeal language is something that can be handled procedurally with a “move to strike” it from the authorization.
Levin said even that isn’t going to fly since Congress is taking what he considers to be a “pretty cautious approach” with the repeal effort. “The votes would not be there to strike that,” Levin told a handful of reporters after the breakfast concluded.
Levin said during the breakfast that the surveys, which have sparked uproar in the LGBT community, are unprecedented since troops weren’t asked when the military increased inclusion of women. “It’s a very good idea to get the attitude of the troops on things,” he said. But Levin said it’s important troops do not think they have “veto power” but rather that they understand they are answering the questions to help implement the inevitable repeal of the Clinton-era policy.
“A lot depends about how the survey is worded … [the Pentagon must] make sure they understand military leadership made a decision,” he said. “[Military leaders are] asking these questions as a way to help us implement this effectively.”
Levin said he hadn’t yet read the survey (read the survey obtained by TPM here) and isn’t yet sure it is “fair.” But Levin said that he thinks the Pentagon should have asked if it’s okay to discriminate against LGBT people in the first place. He said while some troops would answer they aren’t comfortable showering with comrades they know to be gay or lesbian, it’s unlikely many would believe their LGBT colleagues should be treated differently. He said as far as he knows, Congress was not consulted on the survey’s wording.
He does not believe the survey results should be made public. “They will probably leak but they won’t be leaked at my suggestion,” Levin said.
Late Update: The Monitor posted some video. Watch: