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Latinos Support Drive To Rid Military Of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

 

Hispanic Link, News Report , Luis Carlos López, 

The Obama administration, with growing support from top military brass and members of Congress, including half of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is moving to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law — a 1993 compromise by President Clinton that lifted the longstanding outright ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military.

Since 1994 there have been 13,500 discharges under that law.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have echoed the call to action by saying the military is ready for change.

The 2009 Military Readiness Enhancement Act was introduced last March by California Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who three months later resigned to accept a presidential appointment as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control.

The bill is currently being reviewed by the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on military personnel.

Supporter Loretta Sánchez (D-Calif.), a subcommittee member, told Weekly Report, “No individual should have to hide who they are to serve in America’s military. This is an issue of fairness that affects all of us, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.”

People 'More Accepting'

Military Readiness Enhancement now has 187 cosponsors. Among them are nearly 20 Latino members of Congress, including nonvoting member Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico.

Edwin Emilio Corbin Gutiérrez, project coordinator with the Association of Latino Men for Action, hails the repeal effort as an important step toward greater civil liberties.

“We are seeing a wave of change in public attitudes, especially among young people,” he says. “They are much more accepting now.”

Not so, says the Christian Coalition of America, which is launching a national campaign to defeat the bill.

President Roberta Combs urged members, “Let the President know...the military is no place for social experimentation.

"The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy has been in place since the early ’90s and it is overwhelmingly supported by majorities of American public, and more importantly, an overwhelming majority of our men and women in uniform.”

In 1993, Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, spoke against allowing gays to serve in the Armed Forces at all. More recently, he has changed his stance and commented in favor of lifting the ban.

Kevin Nix, director of communication for the Washington, D.C.-based Legal Defense Network, defined his organization’s position to Weekly Report:

McCain Contradiction?
“This is not a liberal, conservative, Democrat or Republican issue at all. It is in fact one of the most bipartisan supported proposals in the country. The impact is not only important to Latinos. It is important to everybody.”

Addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 2, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) characterized Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as an “imperfect but effective policy.” Changing it would disrupt unit cohesion, he said.

His statement was in apparent contradiction to one he made in Iowa in 2006 when he endorsed the law but said he would support change if military leaders proposed it.

“The day the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it...”

Referring to McCain’s comments, Nix responded, “I would challenge anyone to come out and point to there being a problem with unit cohesion, morale or good order. We have yet to hear what the examples are.”



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