Veterans, MCLU Call for End to Discrimination in Military
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Portland — Maine veterans and the Maine Civil Liberties Union (MCLU) gather today at the State of Maine Room at Portland City Hall at 10 am to speak out in favor of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and ending the military facilities abortion ban. Both measures are part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which will likely be considered by the United States Senate next week.
“Senators Collins and Snowe have an historic opportunity to cast the deciding votes to end discrimination in the military,” said MCLU Executive Director Shenna Bellows. “Our military men and women, who risk their lives to protect our Constitutional freedoms, should not be denied their own rights under the Constitution.”
Senators Collins and Snowe declined to vote for cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act early in the fall, citing the need to wait for the Pentagon report on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Pentagon report, released Tuesday, found that 70 percent of service members said they would be able to “work together to get the job done” with a gay service member in their immediate unit.
“While discharging servicemen and women because of their sexuality, is a waste of human capital, it is also a waste of very real capital and surely must cost the American taxpayers many millions of dollars each year. It seems a very high price to pay for prejudice,” said Dr. Christopher Bartlett, a physician and ten year veteran of the United States Army. He served in Iraq and Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm.
In 1993, Congress passed, as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994, a requirement that the military discharge any service members found to be gay or lesbian. In 1995, Congress passed, as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996, a ban on privately funded abortions at military hospitals.
“Our women in uniform deserve the opportunity to make the decision that is best for themselves and their families when facing an unintended pregnancy,” said MCLU Assistant to the Directors Bethany Snow, a veteran of the United States Army Military Intelligence Corps. “Senators Snowe and Collins should support the health and safety of our military women by ending the ban.”
More than 365,000 women currently serve in the Armed Forces. A 2003 study  found that 30 percent of female U.S. military veterans report having been raped or suffered a rape attempt during their military service, and military officials report that there were 2,374 cases of sexual assault  among service members reported to military criminal investigators in 2005 – a 40 percent increase from 2004. Yet, women cannot pay for their own abortions at military-run facilities.
Under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, since 1994, more than 14,000 qualified and committed service members, including hundreds deemed “mission critical,” have been fired by the military simply on the basis of their sexual orientation.
“Our men and women in uniform deserve the opportunity to serve their country with dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation or reproductive health needs,” said Harry Noel, a veteran of the United States Navy Submarine Force and a Member of the MCLU Board of Directors.
 “UI, VAC Researchers Study Women’s Risks of Rape in Military” The University of Iowa News Service. Available at: www.news-releases.uiowa.edu/2003/march/031103military-rape.html
 “Executive Summary” Defense.gov. Available at: www.defense.gov/news/Mar2006/d20060316SexualAssaultReport.pdf
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