Senate Votes to REPEAL "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"President Obama


By Charles Peer and Boyce Hinman

American Servicemembers received a long awaited holiday present this Saturday, when the Senate joined the House in passing legislation that would repeal the 17 year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that has barred them from living their lives openly in the military, and for far too many has cost them their careers, often under humiliating circumstances.

This week, President Obama will sign that law, fulfilling a promise that he has made to Veterans and active duty servicemembers to end the policy. When he does so, there will be so many too thank, from senators and congresspeople to military officials and veterans.
There are also many unsung heroes in this battle though, and they are the grassrooters, the nationwide LGBT organizations like American Veterans for Equal Rights, the Servicemen’s Legal Defense Network, Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, and marriage equality groups who also included DADT in their message of equality.

Right here in Sacramento, the Sacramento Valley Veterans deserve to be included in that group. With its ranks filled with not only veterans from each branch of the service, but with active duty members, some of them even serving today in Afghanistan and Iraq, this small group has made a difference. Joined with similar groups of Veterans and active servicemembers across the country, they created a force that could not, and would not, be stopped.

They have fought, many of them from before the ink from President Bill Clinton’s signature on the DADT law was dry, for its repeal. They have attended fundraisers, townhall meetings and countless rallies and demonstrations – with one goal in mind, repeal DADT.

They have taken every chance they could get to change hearts and minds, of not only politicians, but the American people as well.

They have let no candidate or office holder, from city councilmen, county supervisors, state legislators, and their congressmen and senators and even the President, know how harmful and wrong the DADT Law is.

They have worked tirelessly, and that work has paid off and they have won! There will be no medals passed out, but I would like to offer them one big HooRah!


With the President’s signature, one of the most disgraceful policies ever imposed by the Unites States military will come to an end. We owe a lot to the members of Congress who voted for this bill and to the President. He said he would end the policy, and he has done so.


It is also worth noting that several Republicans voted for the bill in the Senate. They include: Senators Richard Burr (North Carolina), Mark Kirk (Illinois), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), George Voinovich (Ohio), Scott Brown (Massachusetts), John Ensign (Nevada), and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (Maine).

California Senators Boxer and Feinstein were among the 49 co-sponsors of the bill in the U.S. Senate.

We should note also that Senator Mc Cain vigorously opposed the bill to the bitter end. If he had won the last Presidential election, this bill would not become law.

Here is a summary of what the bill does, according to the Congressional Research Service:

"Provides for repeal of the current Department of Defense (DOD) policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces, to be effective 60 days after the Secretary of Defense has received DOD's comprehensive review on the implementation of such repeal, and the President, Secretary, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) certify to the congressional defense committees that they have considered the report and proposed plan of action, that DOD has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by such repeal, and that implementation of such policies and regulations is consistent with the standards of military readiness and effectiveness, unit cohesion, and military recruiting and retention. Provides that, until such time as the above conditions are met, the current policy shall remain in effect."

There are several things of note to highlight in the above summary.
1. The current policy will remain in effect, at least for the near future.
2. The policy will remain in effect for 60 days after the Congress has been notified by the President and the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military that all the things have been done to provide an orderly end to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy.

Pentagon sources indicate it will take about a year for the repeal to take full effect.

The legislation also does the following things;
1. It specifically states that the bill does not allow for the provision of any benefits that violate the Defense of Marriage Act. So, if a service member legally marries some one of the same sex in Massachusetts, for example, the spouse would not be eligible for the spousal benefits provided to the spouses of heterosexual service members.
2. The bill also states that "nothing in this section, or the amendments made by this section, shall be construed to create a private cause of action." It appears this would prevent people discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy from suing the government for damages.

There had been discussion of stating in the bill that people previously discharged from the military, simply because of their sexual orientation, would be eligible for re-enlistment. That language does not appear to be in the final bill. However, once the policy is dropped, it seems likely that qualified people would be allowed to re-enlist.

You may see a copy of the bill by clicking here.

Reactions and comments from legislators and advocates have been non-stop. Here are some that we would like to share with you:

President Obama: By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.

Ty Redhouse, President, Sacramento Valley Veterans: Today, we have witnessed history, … For 17 years, we have seen the careers of thousands of men and women cut short. … We must move forward and take the steps necessary to keep “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”  from inflicting any more harm.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.): When signed into law, this will let people live honest lives as they serve their country. We ask our troops to protect freedom around the globe.  Now we are helping to protect their basic freedoms and equal rights here at home.  

Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA): We are literally today, more than ever, the land of the free and the home of the brave … . This is a triumph … for all Americans who love liberty, freedom and inclusion.


Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine): "This is a historic day.  It is important that the United States will now join at least 28 of our closest allies in welcoming the service of any qualified individual who is willing and capable of serving our country. I am delighted to have joined my friend and colleague Joe Lieberman in leading the effort to begin repeal of this law."

Secretary Robert Gates: Once this legislation is signed into law by the President, the Department of Defense will immediately proceed with the planning necessary to carry out this change carefully and methodically, but purposefully.  This effort will be led by Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and himself a retired Marine Corps major general and infantry officer. 

Adm. Mike Mullen: I am pleased to see the Congress vote to repeal the law governing “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. I am committed to making sure that (the transition) process is well-led, maintains our combat readiness and upholds our high standards."

Andrew Bristow, Equality Action Now’s Youth Leader: I don’t know if military service is for me, but the lawmakers today who ended this crazy policy made it where those of us who value our relationships and are proud of who we are can serve honestly and with as much respect as any other service member out there.

Molly McKay, Marriage Equality USA Media Director: Ding dong, “don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is dead! No more witch hunts, no more serving in fear, finally the beginning of the end of LGBT legal discrimination draws near.

Ty Redhouse, President, Sacramento Valley Veterans: Today's events bring up a lot of emotions for me, personally. I served under DADT for eight years as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Air Force and I understand the pressure of serving in silence. I remember having to keep layer upon layer of secrecy from almost everyone I knew. There were times I questioned myself because DADT essentially forced me to go against my core value of integrity; I sometimes wondered if I really belonged in the military.

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI): Since its inception, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been an un-American assault on our most fundamental tenet – that ‘all men are created equal. Integrity is a hallmark of military service. Yet, for 17 years, we have had a statutory policy that requires some in our military to conceal, deceive, and lie.  The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ is long overdue, but no less welcome.

 

Boyce Hinman is the founder of the California Communities United Institute. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or calcomui.org

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