In an article for The Huffington Post, Aaron Belkin, who is one of the foremost authorities on LGBT Americans serving in the military, has composed five very constructive steps for a future Secretary of Defense Hagel. Belkin points out that Hagel has big shoes to fill with the departure of the LGBT friendly Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Wonderfully, Belkin looks ahead instead of in the past.
Here are Belkin's five concrete steps that Hagel should take as Secretary of Defense to prove that his about-face on gay issues is not just talk.
(1) He should repudiate the conscience clause of the recently-passed defense budget bill. That clause created special rights for service members who oppose serving with gays and lesbians on the basis of their religious or moral beliefs, and it could cause enormous problems under a future Republican administration. Hagel should reiterate President Obama's pledge that the clause will have no implications whatsoever for the full repeal of DADT and open service among gay and lesbian troops.
(2) He should support gay and lesbian military families to the fullest extent allowed by law. While the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents the military from providing some benefits to gay and lesbian families, the Pentagon could do more to standardize the way it treats all troops. And, Hagel should start preparing the Pentagon for DOMA's eventual repeal.
(3) He should express his willingness to sign an official Pentagon directive, or to call for a White House executive order, with an affirmative non-discrimination mandate for the military's treatment of gay and lesbian troops. Because the statute repealing DADT did not include such a mandate, future administrations could, in theory, reinstate discrimination. Hagel should do what he can to make sure that never happens.
(4) He should begin the process of addressing transgender troops who are already serving with distinction and honor, but whose readiness and morale are compromised by a host of discriminatory Pentagon policies.
(5) He should take concrete steps to prevent anti-gay harassment by insisting that commanders hold perpetrators accountable and then holding those who fail to do so accountable