Screen shot 2010-02-02 at 2.27.34 PMI just filed my story for the Washington Independent on today’s DADT hearings, but I just want to say that the way Adm. Mullen spoke today was so deeply profound, heartfelt and impressive that he might have done the greatest service of all to the cause of full equality in the armed forces: he may have changed peoples’ minds.

Remember that Mullen’s immediate predecessor, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, called homosexuality “immoral,” a “sin,” and like “adultery” as the basis for his continued opposition to DADT. Mullen could have deferred saying anything of substance in today’s Senate hearing. He could have said he awaited the results of the new Jeh Johnson/Gen. Carter Ham panel on DADT repeal. He could have backed Secretary Gates’ opposition and left it at that. He could have emphasized the process, or the complexity or the sensitivity of the issue.

And Mullen did that, too. But he also chose to lead. He raised his voice to Sen. Jeff Sessions after the bigot from Alabama suggested that Mullen was guilty of “undue command influence” over the military debate on DADT — and was just carrying water for Obama. “I have served with homosexuals since 1968,” Mullen said. At every point in the debate, no matter how heated the Senatorial invective, Mullen interjected that there was no evidence that homosexual service compromises military effectiveness; and there’s a host of disconfirming evidence from the open gay service allowed in NATO militaries that such service has no deleterious impact. The Constitution is very clearly more than words on a page to this man.

Repealing DADT is going to take a year. Gates and Mullen are very clearly taking this year in order to secure as much military buy-in as they can for what will really be a contentious change. I am not gay and cannot presume to tell my gay friends whether this is an acceptable or unacceptable amount of time. But anyone who watched today’s hearing saw that the nation’s top military officer is an unshakeable ally in this effort. And I do not see how DADT survives after this afternoon.

For more, see this great Abu Muqawama post.

Update, 2:59 p.m.: Here’s my Windy piece.

Update, 3:44 p.m.: Aravosis has a great catch on McCain. What a difference a right-wing primary challenge makes.