Repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” gains Congressional support

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It’s unfortunate when activists, like the think tank analyst in this press release, include pro-war and militaristic rhetoric in their arguments against ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ instead of specifically calling out the military for endorsing discrimination and homophobia as a matter of policy. This organization presumably would not be sympathetic to the counter-recruiting movement. But the news seems like a positive development.

Five new lawmakers, including the highest ranking military veteran in Congress, have joined 126 other lawmakers in supporting legislation to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service personnel. Representatives Michael A. Arcuri (D-NY), Brian Baird (D-WA), Adam Schiff (D- CA), Joe Sestak (D-PA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) all became co-sponsors of The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1246) on Friday, bringing the total number of supporters to 131. Sestak is Congress’s highest-ranking veteran, having served 31 years in the United States Navy and retiring as a 3-star Admiral.

“Congress is steadily moving toward lifting the ban and welcoming lesbian and gay Americans who want to serve our country,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). “Americans overwhelmingly support repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and value the contributions that gay troops bring to our armed forces. When it comes to capturing terrorists, deciphering intelligence and protecting our nation, sexual orientation is irrelevant. It is talent and skill that is paramount to our success at home and abroad.”

Writing in Monday’s Detroit News, columnist
Deb Price noted that, “The Pentagon is no longer frozen solid in angry opposition to lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military.” Congresswoman
Susan Davis (D-CA), chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, told Price that she intends to hold hearings on the issue. “Absolutely, I think the series of hearings would build the case,” for lifting the ban, Davis said. “I’ve not been impressed that [lifting] it is something that would hamper readiness, retention [or] recruitment.”

During hearings last week,
Admiral Michael Mullen,
President Bush’s nominee for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) that he would welcome a Congressional inquiry about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “I’d love to have Congress make its own decisions” regarding the law, he said during confirmation hearings. “I really think it is for the American people to come forward, really through this body, to both debate that policy and make changes, if that’s appropriate.”

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allow lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel to serve openly, is sponsored by Congresswoman
Ellen Tauscher (D-CA). For more information on the legislation and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” visit http://www.sldn.org.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is a national, non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and related forms of intolerance. For more information, visit http://www.sldn.org.

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