The recent dismissal of an airman for violating the ban against gays serving in the military gives new urgency to the need for President Obama and the Defense Department to certify the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley approved the April 29 dismissal, which was the first since Obama signed legislation in December to lift the 1993 ban that prohibits gays from openly serving in the armed forces.
Sadly, more discharges could occur as long as the antigay policy remains on the books. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the military continues to investigate soldiers suspected of being gay, and several face administrative hearings.
The repeal won't become effective until 60 days after the president, defense secretary, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman make a certification report. Half of the armed services' troops have been trained in the procedures to be followed under the new policy, with the rest expected to be trained by midsummer.
It looks doubtful that certification will occur before Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has announced his retirement, leaves in July. That may mean additional time will be needed to get a new secretary up to speed before certification can occur.
A survey of U.S. troops concluded that lifting the ban would have little impact on their ability to fight. They aren't all sold on the idea, but Gates had a good response when recently asked by a Marine if he could end his enlistment due to the policy change. Gates said no, then explained.
"The reality is that you don't all agree with each other on your politics, you don't agree with each other on your religion," he said. "You don't agree with each other on a lot of things. But you still serve together. And you work together. And you look out for each other. And that's all that matters."
It seemed as if ending the "don't ask" policy was a done deal when the repeal was passed. But there are now efforts to weaken the repeal with amendments to the defense authorization bill, including one amendment that would prohibit chaplains from performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.
Legitimate concerns must be addressed before certifying the policy. But it should be certified.
More than 13,000 troops have been dismissed under "don't ask," including not only high-ranking officers but translators and interpreters needed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's time to stop shortchanging the military by continuing an archaic policy that robs it of good soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.