Debra J. Saunders

Fair enough, but there are practical reasons why McCain, the VFW and others who question the wisdom of repeal might want to get behind this document. Two words: "judicial fiat." As Gates warned, either Washington can repeal "don't ask, don't tell" or the courts can do it for Washington.

If the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco decides the matter -- in the wake of a federal judge's ruling suspending the policy -- you probably can kiss goodbye recommendations designed to protect troops who have religious or moral objections to ending "don't ask, don't tell."

The panel, for example, understood that troops might oppose repealing "don't ask, don't tell" out of the fear that it will be "only a matter of time before the military censors the religious expression of chaplains and marginalizes denominations that teach what the Bible says about homosexual behavior." Having seen San Francisco pols go after religious groups, I understand that fear.

The report made clear that a repeal should not try to control how military personnel think: "In the event of repeal, we cannot and should not expect individual Service members to change their personal religious or moral beliefs about homosexuality, but we do expect every Service member to treat all others with dignity and respect, consistent with core values that already exist in each Service." Treat everyone with respect. It's common sense.

The working group also recommended against creating a "protected class" for gays and lesbians. Aubrey Sarvis of the pro-repeal group, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told me he is on board with that language. We're "not seeking any special privileges," he said. "All they're asking is to be who they are without losing their jobs."

Republicans have resisted allowing a vote in the lame-duck Congress. As Sarvis admitted, "It's no secret, one of the reasons we're pushing for the lame-duck, it's only going to get tougher in the new Congress."

But if repeal fails, Sarvis promised, "We will continue with our allies." And then he mentioned the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will rule on a September decision by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips of Riverside, Calif., that found the policy to be unconstitutional.

Everyone knows that "don't ask, don't tell" eventually will be repealed. It's only a matter of time. So the question is: Will it be repealed by people who care about the military and the rights of dissenters, or will it be repealed by an arrogant judge with a political agenda? That is the choice before the Senate.

Debra J. Saunders

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