More than two centuries after America’s first military skirmish, gay and lesbian Americans can now serve openly in the military. President Obama today announced that the military was finally ready to implement a policy of openly welcoming people of all sexual oreintations.
The Obama administration announced Friday that the military had made all necessary preparations to allow gays to serve openly in the armed forces, setting the stage for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 60 days.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented President Obama with a formal certification Friday afternoon at the White House that the military’s ability to fight and recruit would not be harmed by the overt presence of gays in the ranks.
‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal: Closing a chapter in history: President Obama signed the landmark repeal in December, ending a 17-year ban on gays serving openly in the military.
The certification marked the final hurdle in a nearly two-decade-long campaign by gay-rights groups and civil-rights advocates to integrate the armed forces. Under a law passed by Congress and signed by Obama in December, the 18-year-old “don’t-ask, don’t-tell” policy will now automatically vanish in 60 days.
Congressman Jared Polis released the following statement in reaction to President Obama’s certification of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
“I applaud President Obama for certifying the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Our military will be stronger and our nation more secure because brave men and women who are gay will be able to serve without living in secret and talented service members won’t find themselves discharged from the military just because of their sexual orientation.
“The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a landmark civil rights victory. With this victory, as with every civil rights advance, America becomes more true to its values and to the ideal that, not only are we all created equal, we are all equal in the eyes of the law. I express my gratitude to President Obama for his leadership and to my colleagues in Congress who voted to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell last December.”
Senator Michael Bennet had this to say:
“It’s long past time for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to be relegated to the dustbin of history,” said Bennet. “‘This backwards looking policy is not only wrong; it undermines our national security and flies in the face of our national values.
“Now that the President, Secretary Panetta and our military chiefs have certified the military is ready for this transition, we are well on our way towards affirming our nation’s basic rights and affording every American, regardless of their sexual orientation, the opportunity to serve their country.”
Bennet was an original co-sponsor of the bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He is also a cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Senator Mark Udall, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, issued the following statement:
“For almost two decades, we’ve had a policy that dishonored our troops and compromised our national security because it encouraged qualified service members to lie about their identity. Our men and women in uniform have been ahead of us for some time on this issue. They know that what counts in battle isn’t your sexual orientation but your courage, strength, intelligence, training and loyalty.
“I opposed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ from the beginning because it makes no sense, especially while we’re fighting two wars and engaged in conflicts around the world, to tell dedicated, qualified service members that they can’t serve. And I was proud to help lead the fight to end it. With today’s certification, the clock officially begins to tick on the end of the policy. I have faith that our military leaders will implement the repeal with respect, strengthening our military and ensuring the safety of our troops.”
President Obama’s reelection campaign sent out a fundraising letter to mark the occasion. From that letter:
This is huge and welcome news for every one of us who opposes discrimination of any kind. But now, the fight for equal rights moves on.
Here’s the next front: This week the President endorsed a bill to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, a discriminatory law that forces the federal government to ignore the rights of those in same-sex marriages, even those performed in states where gay marriage is legal. The New York Times has said it “ranks with the most overtly discriminatory laws in the nation’s history.”