“I realize that this issue is considered controversial. But, it shouldn’t be. The vast majority of Americans not only support the inclusion of gay service members in the military, but also the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As many as 75 percent of Americans support openly gay service members in the military. This support commands undeniable majorities for men and women, liberals and conservatives, veterans and non-veterans, all age groups, and across the religious spectrum. It is far past time to eliminate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. While my amendment would not have repealed the law, withholding this funding would have made it that much easier.
“Americans recognize that forcing men and women out of the military on the basis of sexual orientation is not only blatantly discriminatory, but harms our national security and, indeed, runs counter to the values of our Armed Forces. We cannot afford to lose any more of our soldiers to the vagaries of outdated bigotry. Every day, we lose approximately two service members to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Our country is engaged in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military has spent over $95.1 million on retraining soldiers because of this law. What is the holdup, then? Last month, 76 of my colleagues and I sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take leadership on this issue and to work together with Congress to repeal this law. More than a month later, I have yet to receive an official response.
“I continue to hear the phrase, ‘next year, next year’ with regard to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That is absurd. This law is plain wrong. It is wrong now and it will be wrong then. How many more soldiers are we going to force to suffer through the humiliation of a so-called ‘investigation?’ How many more Arabic- and Farsi-speaking soldiers are we going to remove from duty, depriving our country of valuable, even life-saving intelligence? How many more combat veterans are we going to tell that we don’t need their experience because their sexual orientation somehow precludes them from serving their country? If we know we are going to repeal this law eventually, then why not take action right now?”
On June 22, Hastings and 76 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to suspend the investigation and discharge of service members in the Armed Forces because of their sexual orientation. Under the discriminatory law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” openly gay and lesbian service members and those suspected of “homosexual conduct” may not serve in the military. (Copy of Letter)
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings is Vice Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a senior member of the House Rules Committee, and Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.