The Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy -- which demands the discharge of any "out" lesbian, gay or bisexual service member from the U.S. military -- is a discriminatory restriction that unfairly disrupts careers, undermines the readiness of our troops, and jeopardizes our national security. In addition, this vicious policy disproportionately hurts women.
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Email your members of Congress today and ask them to take immediate action to repeal DADT. Urge them to help pass the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (MREA, H.R. 1283 / S. 3065) which would end DADT and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The United States is entrenched in two difficult and costly military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot afford to squander valuable resources, and we should not turn away skilled service members in possession of rare expertise, such as knowledge of the Arabic language, because of their sexual orientation.
A good place to start is by passing the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (MREA), which would end DADT and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. MREA enjoys bipartisan support and the backing of prominent military leaders like Collin Powell and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili. The House version of the bill has gathered 191 co-sponsors, and the Senate version has 25 co-sponsors. However, we still need your help on this critical issue.
The DADT compromise was instituted in 1993, when President Bill Clinton's attempt to lift the ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military failed. Under the current law, gay service members are still prohibited from being honest about their sexuality and risk discharge if the truth is discovered. As a result, more than 13,500 service members have been fired from the military since 1993.
These unnecessary discharges not only cost military highly qualified personnel but also cost millions in taxpayer dollars. Since its enactment, DADT is estimated to have lost the military between $290 million to more than half a billion dollars. It takes time and money to find and train new personnel -- estimated replacement costs can range between $22,000 to $43,000 per person.
Such measures are wasteful and contradict the views of a majority of the public. A recent Washington Post poll shows that 75 percent of Americans believe that lesbians and gay men should be allowed to openly serve in the military. Fears about troop readiness have also been proven unsubstantiated, since a number of industrialized nations successfully integrated openly gay and lesbian service members in their ranks with little to no effect on unit cohesion.
In addition to discriminating against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation, DADT also disproportionately affects women and people of color. Service Women's Action Network reports that while women make up 15 percent of the armed forces, they account for 34 percent of total discharges. Moreover, DADT is used against women in the practice known as lesbian baiting. Military women are intimidated into unwanted sexual intercourse, and if they refuse, they are threatened with being outed as lesbians. The policy also negatively impacts racial minorities, who represent 29.4 percent of active duty service members yet make up 45 percent of discharged personnel under DADT.
Our country and our service members cannot afford to wait any longer for President Obama to act on his promise to lift DADT. Recently, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen sent a letter to Congress requesting that they not take legislative action to repeal DADT until a thorough assessment of the policy change can be completed. Our brave lesbian and gay service members should not have to wait in fear of unjust discharge any longer.
The bottom line is that DADT is discriminatory, outdated, costly, and overall a failed policy that has no place in the contemporary world. Act now and ask your members of Congress to show their support for all our troops by repealing DADT as soon as possible. Furthermore, a moratorium on suspensions should be implemented immediately while legislation is debated, and a policy to reinstate lesbian and gay men who have been pushed out of service under DADT should be adopted.