WASHINGTON - The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding hearings today and tomorrow to discuss the possible repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a discriminatory policy that bars lesbian and gay service members from serving openly in the military. The hearing comes after the release of a report earlier this week that found a large majority of active-duty and reserve service members and their families do not believe repealing the policy would have an adverse effect on military operations. President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen have all urged Congress to repeal the policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union called on the Senate to finally end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by passing the repeal provision that is included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which will soon be considered by the full Senate.
"There are no more excuses for delaying the repeal of this unfair and unconstitutional statute," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "This week's Defense Department report only further underscores the need for Congress to act. With the president, the secretary of defense and so many of our nation's service members urging the repeal of this law, the time to end ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is now."
The Senate Armed Services Committee today will hear testimony from Defense Secretary Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen, Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson and Commander of the United States Army in Europe General Carter Ham. Two of today's witnesses, Johnson and Ham, co-chaired a working group that released this week's report on the implementation of a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal. Tomorrow's hearing will feature testimony from the four service chiefs, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the Coast Guard.
"The continuation of this policy is unacceptable in a country where we value the equal treatment of all Americans," said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. "For 17 years, gay and lesbian Americans have lived with the threat of being discharged under this policy simply for being who they are. That must end. We urge the Senate to finally put this discriminatory policy to rest and allow all of our men and women in uniform to serve their country with dignity."
In September, a federal district court ruled that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is unconstitutional, but the policy has been allowed to continue while that decision is appealed. Also in September, a federal court found that U.S. Air Force Maj. Margaret Witt's dismissal under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was unconstitutional in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Washington. That case is also being appealed by the government.
The ACLU conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.