Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall joined with Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman and eleven co-sponsors to introduce legislation this morning to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans lesbian, gay and bisexual service members from serving openly.
“In a time of two wars, any policy that leads to the discharge of talented and capable troops threatens our national security and wastes resources,” Udall said in a release. “That’s exactly what “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been doing for 17 years. And that’s why, as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and original cosponsor of this bill, I’m proud to be leading the charge to finally — and fully — repeal this unfair and outmoded law.”
The move comes almost exactly a month after a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on the policy in which the nation’s top military leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, announced they would establish a working group that would conduct a year-long study on how exactly to repeal the law.
Sen. Udall said then that he believed the nation should move faster. Then as now, he believed the policy was outdated and worked to harm national security and military readiness.
Udall at the hearing in February:
The legislation Udall introduced with Lieberman today would allow the Department of Defense to continue its study on how best to implement the repeal but it also would ensure that the DOD remains dedicated to implementing repeal, not to merely considering a repeal. The law would also end ongoing military discharges of gay and lesbian service members in the year the DOD study goes forward.
Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, commended the lawmakers for acting to end the policy and urged immediate action to end discipline being meted out to gay service members for simply being gay. Carey has been making the case for some time that discriminating against gays in the military, men and women willing to fight and die for the country, and discharging them poses much greater risk to readiness than does allowing them to serve openly.
“We urge once again for the immediate halt to all discharges of service members because of their sexual orientation until Congress finally fulfills its responsibility to overturn this archaic, unjust law,” Carey was quoted to say in a release sent out this morning. “Several other countries have already implemented equality in the armed services without issue. It’s long past time for the United States to do the same. It’s long past time to place fairness above foot-dragging.”
Many lawmakers oppose a repeal for fear it would damage unit cohesion and weaken the military.
The Center for Military Readiness, a conservative D.C.-based think tank that opposes any change to “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” argues that the “proposed new LGBT Law should not be imposed on our military men and women due to predictable negative effects on recruiting, retention, and readiness—the 3 Rs that are essential to maintain a strong All-Volunteer Force.”
Polls demonstrate the American public supports repeal of the law by wide margins. A February 10 Quinnipiac Poll, reported that 57 percent of Americans supported repeal and only 36 percent opposed. This, despite the fact that the language of the poll seemed skewed against repeal.
Among the bill’s sponsors are Carl Levin, D-Mich., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Roland Burris, D-Ill.
The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was implemented in 1993 under former President Bill Clinton. The policy restricts openly homosexual individual from participating in the armed services but prohibits military inquiry and investigation in individuals sexual preference.