Following the recent votes by the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee to allow for a repeal of the discriminatory and counterproductive policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," (DADT) you may be asking yourself, "Where do we go from here?"
The next showdown over the issue is likely to take place on the floor of the Senate, where opponents of repeal, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have vowed to try and strip the repeal language currently contained in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) from the legislation, or offer a "poison pill" amendment to make it difficult or impossible to actually move forward with a policy of open service for those who are gay, lesbian and bisexual.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) just published a very helpful document explaining all of the steps that remain before DADT becomes an ugly artifact of history. It is important to know that while we have had some amazing successes in recent weeks, critical votes remain on the horizon and challenging obstacles will need to be overcome before we arrive at our ultimate goal — repeal of DADT and open service for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members. We are as close as we've ever been, and closer than our opponents ever thought possible, but we still must remain vigilant in our pursuit of justice and equality.
The Center for American Progress has a DADT by the Numbers page on their website, which offers further damning evidence of just how destructive a law DADT is. In particular, I find two numbers very persuasive — 1.3 billion and zero. Since 1980, the U.S. government has spent an estimated $1.3 billion banning openly gay individuals from military service (and kicking out more than 13,500 since DADT went into effect). Clearly this senseless discrimination has costs that extend beyond those directly impacted by the policy. Zero represents the number of studies that have shown that repealing DADT would do actual harm to the military. Research conducted by the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that "No reputable or peer-reviewed study has ever shown that allowing service by openly gay personnel will compromise military effectiveness."
While it's clearly obvious that the facts are solidly behind us, it's also very important for supporters of repealing DADT to make their voices heard. Please join the ACLU in urging senators to stand on the right side of history and oppose any effort on the Senate floor to strip the DADT repeal language from the defense authorization bill.