No Good Reason for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Promoted from the diaries by Rosi

For those who believe, as I do, that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is a horribly misguided and discriminatory policy that has done a great disservice to our armed forces, this has been a remarkable week.

During his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his intent to end the 17-year-old policy, leading to a standing ovation that included Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Yesterday, at a Senate hearing, Secretary Gates said “I fully support the president’s decision” and announced a working group to produce an implementation plan for repeal. At the same hearing, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made a strong appeal for repeal, saying that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do.” The current policy, he said, “forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

In 2006, John McCain said, “the day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it because those leaders in the military are the ones we give the responsibility.”

At yesterday’s hearing, he said he was disappointed in their testimony. Apparently, the advice of military leadership doesn’t count for much now.

It should be evident that it is a matter of when, not if, DADT is repealed and gay men and women will be able to serve openly in our armed forces.  I hope we see that day sooner, not later.

Overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not simply about providing equal rights. It’s about preventing the hemorrhage of critical military talent from an already-overstretched American military engaged in two wars. When I travel to the Middle East to meet American servicemen and women in the war theater, no one discusses their personal lives. Nobody should because it doesn’t matter. What matters is what they are doing to complete their missions and strengthen American security.

The real question is why are we depriving our armed forces of some of their most important resources? Why are we discharging skilled Arabic linguists, fighter pilots, and weapons officers? Why have we discharged more than 13,000 service members since 1994?

There is no good reason, as Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen made clear.

This week’s developments are encouraging, but, although Executive Branch action would be good, what is needed is Congressional action that would make equality the law. The bill I support – sponsored by my colleague Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, a Veteran of the War in Iraq – has more than 180 cosponsors. We should not wait to pass it.

No one would agree to deprive our military of ammunition or armor, so why deprive it of its greatest necessity, highly talented servicemen and women?

Comments (4)

  1. Jason Springer

    and the last line is such a great question.  Thanks for posting this.

    Admiral Mullen put out more on his view through the Armed Forces Press Service as well.

    Reply
  2. Rosi Efthim

    Overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not simply about providing equal rights. It’s about preventing the hemorrhage of critical military talent from an already-overstretched American military engaged in two wars.

    Yes. When I hear some of your colleagues opposing the end of DADT, it really makes me wonder about their dedication to the troops. We’ve got exhausted fighting men and women, many of whom have been stoplossed. We have people ready to serve their country who can relieve some of them. The math on that isn’t hard.  

    Reply
  3. Thurman Hart

    DADT was created with the idea that it would allow gay men and women to serve without anyone knowing they were gay.  John McCain says the policy is “imperfect but effective.”  Given that 428 people were discharged last year, exactly what is it effective at?  If it was effective, there would be no discharges and no one would feel at risk.  Obviously, this is not the case.

    I served in the US Navy for six years, including four years on board the USS Saipan.  I know of at least three people who were gay and served with honor and distinction – and half a dozen who were thrown out because they expose the manner in which an officer victimized them for being secretly gay.  That sort of thing has to stop, but if turning in the person victimizing you means a dishonorable discharge and the loss of all benefits…well, we are just empowering the very worst of people among us.

    Reply
  4. Alex

    I wonder how many people across this country can take as much pride in being so well represented as my partner and I do by being represented by Rush Holt.

    Reply

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