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It should be evident that it is a matter of when, not if, DADT is repealed and gay men and women will be able to serve openly in our armed forces.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?