Today the U.S. Senate voted on legislation that will allow for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar version of the bill and President Obama has said that he will sign DADT repeal into law.
Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the stand-alone repeal bill in the Senate. DADT was made a law seventeen years ago and is the only U.S. law that punishes people for simply telling the truth. Since the law went into effect, over 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged from our nation’s military simply because they were gay or lesbian. An estimated 66,000 gays and lesbians are currently on active-duty. Twenty-three studies over the past fifty years, including most recently a comprehensive study by the Pentagon, have concluded the same thing: that there would be no to minimal impact on force cohesion or unit readiness by allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military. Thirty-countries currently allow gays and lesbians to serve in their nation’s armed forces.
The repeal of DADT will happen only after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that policies have been written to implement repeal and compliance with these polices is consistent with military readiness. According to the Human Rights Campaign, DADT is not effective immediately and service members are still at risk of being discharged on the basis of their sexual orientation until certification occurs and an additional 60 days have passed.
Of the sitting Senators, the only past RLC-endorsed Senator who cast a vote in favor of repealing DADT was Senator John Ensign of Nevada. (Other moderate Republican Senators like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe also supported the repeal.)
On behalf of basic fairness and equal rights under the law, I applaud Congress for taking this important step.