Openly gay Colorado Congressman Jared Polis took to the floor of the House Wednesday to commend U.S. leaders for putting an end to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Clinton-era policy banning gay members of the military from serving openly. Gay citizens will “hold their heads a little higher as Americans,” Polis said soon after President Obama signed the repeal. “We are closer to equal treatment under the law, which is all we have ever asked for. Our government will no longer be an instrument of discrimination against us.”
Polis said Obama spoke “wisely and strongly” on the repeal at the White House ceremony and that he welcomed any gay service-members discharged under the law to reenlist.
President Obama said, there will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country. He continued, as the first generation to serve openly in our armed services you will stand for all of those who came before you and your will serve as role models for all of those who came after you.
Madame Speaker, today is an important day, not just for gay and lesbian members of the military, but to all of us who are gay or lesbian. To our family, to our friends. For they all know that today we hold our heads a little higher as Americans. We are closer to equal treatment under the law, which is all we have ever asked for. Our government will no longer be an instrument of discrimination against us. And all America will see and be told of the patriotism of the gay and lesbian Americans who proudly defend a country that today is one step closer to considering us equal.
Weeks ago, as Republican lawmakers led by Arizona Senator John McCain sought to put the breaks on the repeal, Polis told MSNBC that the power had drained from McCain’s shifting arguments in the debate.
You don’t have to be straight to be able to fight for our country. It doesn’t make sense. No other western country has this policy. You can study after study. They’re all going to show you the same thing, that of course gay and lesbian Americans can serve in the military and of course the military is a professional institution that is up the challenge of allowing them to serve, like every other institution in society, like the U.S. Congress, like our police forces. This is just a bizarre conversation we’re having… [It’s] an absurd issue whose time has long since past…
I’ve talked to friends of mine in the military, constituents, they said the military has never asked their opinion about what’s on the menu in any of the other conditions. This has been the broadest reaching model for gaining input of members of the military on any major decision… Of course the men and women in the military overwhelmingly support allowing gays to serve openly. They have gay and lesbians friends, sometimes brothers, sisters, cousins. I mean this is just a stigma that maybe a few old white male senators have but the men and women of the military are well past this.
Gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, meanwhile, was asked by right-wing news site CNS to consider complaints that gay and straight soldiers would now have to shower together.
Frank nearly dismissed the question out of hand. “Oh no, not shower together,” he said, all mock aghast, but then added that gay and straight people have showered together in public spaces since the beginning of time. He pointed out that they were required to do so in the U.S. military for hundreds of years before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and for seventeen years under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and that for all that time the U.S. military has done just fine.