Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Has Finally Ended!

Today marks the end of 18-years of discriminatory practices upheld by our nations military and the United States Congress. At 12:01am this morning, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," signed by President Obama last December went into full effect. Gay men and women can now serve openly in the US Military without fear of persecution or discharge. All pending DADT discharges have officially been halted, as well as investigations of violations of DADT.

In preparation for today, the military began accepting applications from openly gay recruits and formerly discharged members. These applications will be acted on and given full consideration today on.

History of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Signed into law in 1993 under President Bill Clinton, DADT was thought to be a compromise measure to bypass an outright ban on gays serving in the US Military that was already in place. The Uniform Code of Military Justice established "that homosexuality is incompatible with military service and that persons who engaged in homosexual acts or stated that they are homosexual or bisexual were to be discharged." Passed by Congress in 1960 and signed into law by President Harry Truman, this also established the policies and procedures for discharging homosexual service members.

During his 1992 Presidential Campaign, then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton promised he would allow all citizens to serve in the US Military regardless of their sexual orientation.

According to the Pentagon, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was responsible for 906 discharges of armed service members in 2002 and 1273 in 2001. These discharges included lesbian and gay Arabic linguists. During a time when the military was faced with a 50% shortfall in trained Arabic linguists "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" allowed for the firing of trained and qualified linguists because they were gay.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" did more harm than good for the nation.

Still more work to do.....

Benefit eligibility is still impeded by current US law. Because the "Defense of Marriage Act" is still the law of the land, gay service members and their spouses are still exempt from receiving the same military benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

“Despite this progress, much work remains to ensure full equality in the military. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will prohibit gay and lesbian service members and their spouses from receiving many of the benefits their straight counterparts receive. Limiting regulations also impact areas like military family housing, access to legal services, and spousal relocation support. We also are continuing to deal with an infrastructure ill-prepared to handle incidents of discrimination and harassment against gay and lesbian service members. It is incumbent upon fair-minded legislators to continue pushing equality forward by standing up to discriminatory legislative tactics, pushing for repeal of DOMA, examining barriers to service for qualified and dedicated transgender Americans, and ensuring gay and lesbian military families get the same access to benefits as everyone else.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen are expected to formally announce the finalizing of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal at a news conference later today.

What should be done to ensure that gay service members are treated equally as they openly serve?

Did "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" weaken or strengthen the US Military?
Should the discharged service members be given top priority for enlistment?
What next steps should our US Congress take to ensure equality for all Americans?

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