Posted on February 24, 2010 by David Cohen

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” saga
Source: press release from HRC

The highest-ranking leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines appeared before Congress this week and testified in support of the strategy to repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that was laid out by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
    Army Chief of Staff General George Casey; Secretary of the Army John McHugh; Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz; Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley; Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead; Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Conway all supported the implementation review announced earlier this month and now under way at the Pentagon.
    Throughout this week, the service secretaries and service chiefs have been testifying before the U.S. House and Senate Armed Services Committees regarding defense authorization requests for Fiscal Year 2011.
    “The leaders of our military service branches told Congress that they back Adm. Mullen and Secretary Gates’ road-map for repeal and would absolutely be capable of carrying out orders abolishing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when Congress and the president send those orders their way,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “The testimony given by the service chiefs this week only furthers the belief that whatever orders are handed to them by their superiors, our men and women in uniform will have no trouble carrying out those orders with honor and professionalism.”
    “Every shred of evidence shows that on the battlefield, sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Our country’s top military leaders and the overwhelming majority of the American public and active-duty service members all believe that the most important consideration isn’t whether a patriotic American fighting for our freedom is gay or straight, but whether they have the ability to perform their mission. The time to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is now,” continued Solmonese.
    On Monday, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) announced that he will introduce a bill in the U.S. Senate to repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA) is the lead sponsor of similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since President Obama delivered his State of the Union address last month, during which he called for ending the ban on openly lesbian and gay Americans from serving in the military, there has been a nearly unanimous and diverse group who have spoke out in support of doing away with the law. Some of those include:
    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced their support during their congressional testimony before a Senate Armed Services Committee.
    General Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, “I fully support the new approach presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week by Secretary of Defense Gates and Admiral Mullen.”
    A New York Times/CBS News national poll conducted on February 5th – 10th, 2010, shows yet again that a majority of Americans support repeal.
    The largest organization of retired U.S. military reserve officers in the nation voted to end its decades-long position in support of excluding lesbians and gays from the U.S. military. The association, founded in 1922 and chartered by Congress in 1950, also rejected the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
    Former Vice President and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney threw his support behind the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by stating, “When the chiefs come forward and say, ‘We think we can do it,’ then it strikes me as it’s time to reconsider the policy, and I think Adm. Mullen said that.”
    Now is the time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” To be part of the effort to ensure that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed this year, please write your member of Congress.
    The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

BACKGROUND
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) – the current law prohibiting lesbians and gays from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Forces – is the only law in the country that requires people to be dishonest about their personal lives or be fired, possibly even imprisoned. This discriminatory law hurts military readiness and national security while putting American soldiers fighting overseas at risk.

Below are facts regarding the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
  • Support by the public for open service by lesbian and gay troops has grown by 31 percentage points since DADT was introduced over a decade ago. A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in July 2008 found that 75% of Americans believe openly lesbian and gay citizens should be able to serve in the U.S. military, compared to 62% in 2001 and 44% in 1993.
  • According to a 2010 report by the Williams Institute, there are approximately 66,000 lesbian and gay individuals serving in the U.S. military. Veterans, especially younger veterans, are increasingly comfortable serving alongside gay troops. A December 2006 Zogby poll of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 73% of soldiers reported being “comfortable … in the presence of gays,” and only 37% opposed repealing the DADT law. Furthermore, the July 2008 Washington Post/ABC poll found that 50% of all veterans supported open service by lesbians and gays.
  • Moreover, according to multiple polls, a majority of Republicans, Independents, Democrats, Conservatives, Moderates, Liberals and weekly and monthly church goers support open service.
  • Our military allies’ experience shows that open service works. At least 28 countries, including Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Israel, already allow open service by lesbian and gay troops, and none reports morale or recruitment problems. At least nine nations allowing open service fought alongside American troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition, at least twelve nations allowing open service fought alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • Americans recognize that on the battlefield, it does not matter whether a soldier is lesbian, gay or straight; what matters is that a soldier gets the job done. This discriminatory law hurts military readiness and national security while putting American soldiers fighting overseas at risk.
  • More than 800 specialists with vital skills – Arabic linguists, for example – have been discharged from the U.S. military under DADT.
  • In a time of war, the military should not be discharging or preventing the enlistment of well-qualified service members based on their sexual orientation. According to a 2010 report by the Williams Institute, repealing the DADT law could attract an estimated 36,700 men and women to active duty service and 12,000 more individuals to the guard and reserve.