One of the promises President Barack Obama made while campaigning was a repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) legislation that discriminates against gay and lesbian members of the Armed Forces. So far, the administration has been content to let this matter be handled by Congress. This is understandable, considering all of the other issues the administration has on its plate.
Congress has responded with efforts in the House and Senate aimed at repealing DADT.
The House effort is being led by Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) who introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (MREA) in the 110th Congress. There are currently
163 168 co-sponsors for this bill with Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) as lead sponsor.
The Senate effort is being led by newly-appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Senator Gillibrand has received a promise from Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, to hold hearings in the fall. Any Senate bill on this issue is expected to be introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). He is apparently searching for a Republican co-sponsor before introducing a bill.
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has extensive coverage on the effort to repeal DADT.
The Military Readiness Enhancement Act would repeal the federal law banning military service by openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The bill would replace this ban with new provisions prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the armed forces. Current regulations regarding the personal conduct of military members would remain unchanged as long as they are written and enforced in a sexual orientation neutral manner. Persons previously discharged on the basis of sexual orientation would be eligible to apply to rejoin the military. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act would not create a right to benefits for same-sex partners or spouses, because under current federal law such benefits would violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would strengthen military readiness, retention and recruitment across the board.
Repeal would enable the military to attract and retain critical personnel. Nearly 13,000 service members have been discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since 1993, and strong evidence suggests that countless others have made the choice not to join the military or have left military service at the end of their commitments rather than serve under this discriminatory law.
According to a 2005 GAO report, almost 800 persons discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” had skills deemed “mission critical” by the military. Discharging linguists, doctors, nurses, mechanics, infantrymen and intelligence analysts for no other reason than because of their sexual orientation weakens readiness and undermines unit cohesion. Allowing all qualified Americans to serve regardless of sexual orientation will make every branch of our military stronger.
Repeal will also save millions of taxpayer dollars every year. According to the GAO report, it has cost more than $200 million to replace service members fired under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” GAO admits that this is an incomplete estimate; the true cost is even higher.
Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” reflects American values. Polling shows that at least 75 percent of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly in our nation’s military. And Americans care deeply about treating our service members and veterans with the respect and thanks they deserve, not as second class citizens. It is estimated that more than 65,000 gay Americans serve in the military now, and that our country is home to more than 1,000,000 gay
Please take the time to contact your Senators and Congressional Representative and urge them to support the effort to repeal DADT.
Check this list to see if your Representative has signed on as a co-sponsor to the MREA. If he or she hasn’t already done so, please call or send an email to urge them to become a co-sponsor.