Community Leaders Condemn Don't Ask, Don't Tell

by HRC Staff

Coalition calls for repeal of discriminatory law on eve of historic hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On the eve of a Congressional hearing on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, leaders from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays called for repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that forbids military service by open lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

"This hearing begins an important national conversation on the national security impact of losing qualified, capable service members for no other reason than their sexual orientation," said Aubrey Sarvis, the Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "The existing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law not only hurts military readiness when our troops are stretched too thin, it also discriminates against patriotic Americans who want to serve when they are needed most. 143 Members of the House of Representatives have seen the problem and co-sponsored the bill (H.R. 1246) to repeal the ban and ensure non-discrimination within the armed forces. For several years now, gays and lesbians have been serving openly with honor in the military of 24 developed nations, including Australia, Israel, Great Britain and Canada."

"Every year thousands of qualified, patriotic gay and lesbian service members are forced out of the U.S. Armed Services simply because of who they are," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "The vast majority of Americans, including the majority of service members, support the right of gay and lesbian service members to serve openly and honestly. We must repeal this discriminatory policy and ensure that our military can recruit and retain the best and the brightest troops regardless of their sexual orientation."

"We urge the immediate repeal of the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy that has resulted in the expulsion of thousands of loyal American women and men from the U.S. Armed Forces. Since 1993, lesbian, gay and bisexual service members have steadfastly pledged to defend our Constitution even while forced into silence about who they are and whom they love. That they are ejected from the military when their sexual orientation is discovered is a disservice to them and their families and a disgrace to our country. This categorical rejection of our country's brave and trustworthy Americans and the continued squandering of their contributions must end," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund.

"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' weakens our national security by preventing qualified men and women from serving our country," said Log Cabin Republicans President Patrick Sammon. "There is growing Republican support for repealing this law. Log Cabin Republicans is committed to gaining additional GOP support for repeal."

"Whenever an American returns home from war, patriotism should command each of us to thank them for their service. The testimony that Stonewall Democrats has supplied the U.S. House Armed Services Committee recognizes both the urgent need for military readiness and the sacrifice of all Americans who chose to serve. Some politicians prefer to support the outdated agendas of special interest groups rather than the current sacrifice of our service members. That is one reason why, as Democrats, we are campaigning for change at this crucial point in our national history. Honoring those who wear the uniform requires us to elect public servants who will honor their sacrifice as well," said Jon Hoadley, Executive Director of the Stonewall Democrats.

"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' denies our families and loved ones critical rights and protections that no American, let alone those who serve in our armed forces, should be denied," said Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). "Under the law, parents have been questioned about their children, troops are barred from being part of civil laws recognizing their relationships and the children of same-sex military couples are left behind by the military's benefits system. PFLAG applauds Congresswoman Davis and the Personnel Subcommittee for this important review of the ban, which is one of the most anti-family laws on the books today."

Scheduled to testify against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are U.S. Army Major General Vance Coleman (Ret.), U.S. Navy Captain Joan E. Darrah (Ret.), and former Marine Staff Sergeant Eric F. Alva. The Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee hearing will be chaired by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) on July 23 at 2 PM in Room 2118 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is a national, non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organization dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel affected by 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and related forms of intolerance.

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