Senate Introduces Legislation To Repeal Discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy
Bill Comes As Government Officials Testify In House In Favor Of Repeal
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WASHINGTON – Legislation was introduced today in the Senate to end the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The policy, passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1993, states that openly lesbian and gay individuals pose “an unacceptable threat to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability,” and prevents gay and lesbian individuals from serving openly in the military. Today’s legislation, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010 introduced by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and co-sponsored by several senators including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation by the military.
An act of Congress is needed to repeal the law and the American Civil Liberties Union strongly urges Congress to make ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a priority this year.
“The introduction of this bill signals a true commitment from Congress to finally put an end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We cannot lose momentum. Congress must act quickly to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can serve their country free from discrimination. When the president, our nation’s top military leaders and the majority of our country have called for an end to this discriminatory policy, it is time to act. Congress must answer these calls with conviction.”
The Obama administration and several high-ranking military leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael G. Mullen, have called for an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” There is a companion bill currently pending in the House, H.R. 1283, also titled the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. The House version’s lead sponsor is Patrick Murphy (D-PA) who is an Iraq war veteran.
Also today, the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee heard testimony from administration and armed services officials on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a 45-day period to examine steps the Pentagon could take on their own to lessen the impact of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” without having to wait for Congress to pass a full repeal. A Pentagon working group was also established to conduct a year-long assessment of the military’s ability to move forward with a repeal and how it might be carried out. The two co-chairs of that working group, General Counsel of the Department of Defense Jeh C. Johnson and USA Commanding General, U.S. Army Europe, General Carter F. Ham, testified today.
“Gay and lesbian Americans have been forced to live a lie in order to serve the country for nearly two decades,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU senior legislative counsel. “With bills pending in both the House and Senate and the outspoken support of President Obama and military leaders, this year can and must be the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Our men and women in uniform deserve to be treated fairly. We urge Congress to move swiftly to end this shameful policy.”
While the ACLU strongly supports ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as soon as possible, it is concerned about a provision in Senator Lieberman’s bill that would require the Defense Department to report to Congress about its efforts to force universities to accept Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) units on their campuses in order to receive certain funding. While ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should resolve the problem of ROTC discrimination based on sexual orientation, the ACLU still believes that denying funds to universities that might exclude ROTC for other reasons poses threats to academic freedom.
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