HRC Blog

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Soon To Be in the Dustbin of History

Post submitted by Joe Solmonese, Former HRC President

Tomorrow is a truly historic day in American history.   For tomorrow, September 20, 2011, will mark the end of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, which bans lesbian, gay, and bisexual men and women from serving openly in our armed services.  Since 1993, gay Americans willing to risk their lives and serve their country in uniform have been forced to serve in silence, out of fear of being discharged.

Following President Obama, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ certification of repeal two months ago, and a built-in waiting period, this discriminatory law will now formally be a thing of the past.   For far too long, the ban on openly gay service members endangered our security, violated our values, and ruined lives.  Tomorrow’s formal, final end of DADT is a monumental step in this movement’s history – not just for those wishing to openly serve their country, but for all Americans who believe in fairness, equality, and the right to pursue our passions free of discrimination.

While we cheer the demise of this ugly law, let us also think about the thousands of men and women affected by DADT – brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines – some fired outright and others who just couldn’t bear the thought of living a lie, whose careers fell victim to this mistake of a law.  Now, some want to return to their military careers, but face frightful uncertainty about whether or not they can reclaim their ranks or the assignments that were stolen from them.

And despite this milestone, much work remains to ensure we continue toward full equality in the military. The so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibits the military from extending a number of benefits to the spouses of gay and lesbian service members, such as health insurance benefits. Gay and lesbian service members and their loved ones also face limitations in areas like family housing, access to legal services, spousal relocation support and an adequate infrastructure to process incidents of discrimination and harassment against gay and lesbian service members. We must also do everything we can to ensure that transgender Americans are able to serve in the U.S. military. It’s incumbent on fair-minded lawmakers to push back against discriminatory legislative actions, push for the repeal of DOMA and pay attention to military personnel matters.

We all know our fight for equality is not over. Our challenges are many: from presidential candidates who’ve promised to reinstate DADT to a far-right Congress that continues to defend the equally horrific Defense of Marriage Act in court.  We won’t let any of their attacks go unchallenged.  HRC will keep fighting, most especially thanks to people like you.

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