ACLU Calls Vote A Grave Disappointment
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WASHINGTON – The Senate voted today to block consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that included two key civil liberties provisions: repeal of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and repeal of the current ban on privately funded abortion care on military bases. The American Civil Liberties Union expressed deep disappointment that the bill including these repeals will not be considered for a vote.
Following the vote, however, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) announced he and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) intend to introduce a stand-alone bill later today that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The ACLU encourages the introduction of such legislation and urged the Senate to commit to passing the bill before the end of the legislative session.
"Congress has missed an historic opportunity to overturn these unjust and unfair policies,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Because of today's vote, policies that infringe upon our service members’ constitutional rights will remain intact at a time when they are willingly putting their lives at risk to serve our country.”
The current abortion policy bans servicewomen from using private funds to exercise their constitutional right to abortion except in the case of rape or incest. Additionally, servicewomen who are forced by the ban to seek proper medical care at civilian facilities are required to request a leave of military duty, which can only be granted after they disclose their private medical decisions to their superiors. The current ban means that servicewomen are denied the same reproductive rights as their civilian counterparts, who are guaranteed access to safe, legal abortion care.
"Our women in uniform are living under a different set of rules than other Americans when it comes to reproductive health care, and that is unacceptable. Congress, unfortunately, has just allowed that to continue,” said Murphy. “All women have the right to safe reproductive health care and the women and families serving our country today deserve better.”
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," passed into law in 1993, prevents gay and lesbian individuals from serving openly in the military. Since 1994, more than 14,000 qualified and committed service members, both men and women, have been fired under the policy simply on the basis of their sexual orientation. President Obama called for its repeal in his State of the Union address, the highest ranking members of the military have called for the policy to end and a report released last month by the Pentagon found that a large majority of respondents to a survey of active-duty and reserve service members and their families say that ending the policy would not have an adverse effect on military operations.
"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is unacceptable in a country where we value the equal treatment of all Americans. Gay and lesbian service members should not have to serve our country under the threat of being discharged simply for being who they are,” said Murphy. “The ACLU remains fully committed to ending this unfair and unconstitutional policy and will continue to fight to ensure that our nation's service members are able to serve with honesty and integrity."
The ACLU of Washington represents Air Force Major Margaret Witt, who was ordered to be reinstated this fall after being dismissed under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Another recent court decision, currently on appeal, has found that this policy is unconstitutional.
For more information on the ACLU's work on the NDAA, go to: www.aclu.org/ndaa