Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Not Yet Disarmed

by Shawna Stich, NOW Field Organizing Intern

Have you heard the news? Although the proverbial chickens have not yet hatched, I cannot help but feel cautious excitement as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell begins to crumble at long (woefully overdue) last.

In a federal court on Sept. 9, 2010, Judge Virginia Phillips delivered a landmark decision declaring the policy commonly known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to be unconstitutional. In the coming weeks, Judge Phillips will decide whether or not to issue an injunction to suspend the military’s enforcement of the policy. Although her original ruling is likely to be appealed, with the possibility of the case reaching the Supreme Court, activists and supporters of LGBT rights and human rights are celebrating this advancement towards equality.

In the Washington state U.S. District Court, a second case is underway that could lead to the first openly lesbian woman being allowed to continue military service. Major Margaret Witt was discharged from the Air Force in 2007 when her partner’s vindictive ex-husband sent a note to the Air Force, outing her. As an effective and respected leader, Major Witt’s discharge was not just injustice — it hurt morale in her unit. She is now suing to be re-instated to her former position.

The courts are not the only place Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is being dismantled. In May, the House of Representatives voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Currently, the Senate is sitting on its own version of the Defense Authorization bill — a disgrace given that the House completed its vote on May 27. Though President Obama has expressed his support of overturning the ban, he has neither stopped the firings nor called for moving forward with a repeal before the completion of a Pentagon-directed study on its implementation, which is due to Congress on Dec. 1 this year.

If sufficient pressure is placed on the Senate and the White House, a vote could take place before Congress breaks in a few weeks. We at NOW, along with many other organizations, are calling to cut the delays and repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell TODAY!

Verbal support for repealing the ban on gay and lesbian service members is coming from all sides. Top military leaders, including President Obama and Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, say that allowing people who are openly gay and lesbian to serve in the military will not hurt unit cohesion. This negates one of the key rationalizations behind the inception of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 1993. In addition, many service members have openly stated that unit morale is often severely damaged when a service member is discharged because of the policy. There is overwhelming public demand for repeal of the ban with 75 percent expressing support in a recent survey published in the Washington Post.

The question of overturning Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is not simply a matter of LGBT rights. This is an issue of fundamental civil and human rights. It is a basic right to love without fear of discharge. Job security should be based on job performance, not the sex of who you love.

From human rights organizations to federal courts to activists to Lady Gaga the demand to end the oppressive decade of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is being heard loud and clear.

Add your voice and join NOW in calling on the Senate to vote to repeal the ban. Tell her or him that equality and justice for all service members cannot wait any longer! NOTE: This effort failed in the Senate. Stay tuned for future action plans to repeal DADT.

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