Kudos to California Congresswomen Sue Davis and Ellen Tauscher for initiating what could be the beginning of the end of former President Bill Clinton's colossally stupid, discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy barring gays and lesbians from serving in the military. Congresswoman Davis held a hearing in the House Armed Services' Personnel Readiness Subcommittee yesterday.
The Washington Post reported last weekend that a whopping 75 percent of Americans think that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military. (A CNN poll from May puts the figure as high as 79 percent.) Since enacting the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy 15 years ago, the military has dismissed more than 12,500 gay men and lesbians. ABC News reports that the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) "says nearly 800 of those dismissed had skills the Pentagon deemed 'mission critical.'"
A recent 60 Minutes segment interviewed several soldiers—a few reported stories of being dismissed after their sexual orientation was discovered, but others shared stories of superiors who either looked the other way or accepted them. NPR featured a great segment on the policy today as well, reporting:
Marine Sgt. Eric Alva, a gay man visited by President Bush after losing a leg to a landmine — the first U.S. casualty in the Iraq invasion — also testified.
"That landmine may have put an end to my military career that day, but it didn't put an end to my secret," Alva said. "That would come years later, when I realized that I had fought and nearly died to secure the rights for others that I myself was not free to enjoy. I had proudly served a country that was not proud of me."
In May, the ACLU of Washington won an important case that struck a blow to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Click here to ask Congress to repeal this discriminatory policy and allow gay men and lesbians to openly and proudly serve their country.