The Senate’s vote today to repeal the military’s unjust Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is a landmark victory that ends the 17-year policy of discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the military and moves our nation one step closer to realizing the promise of equality.
NOW thanks all of the senators who voted to recognize the right of lesbians and gay men to serve openly in the military, especially those who for years have taken a lead role in the struggle. We also recognize the courage of the Republican senators who broke ranks to end the filibuster and move to a vote on this historic legislation.
NOW has long been concerned about the disproportionate impact of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on women. According to the Service Women’s Action Network, sexual harassment of military women frequently takes the form of lesbian baiting. An indication of the lopsided impact of the policy is that, in 2008, 34 percent of service members discharged were women even though women constitute only 15 percent of military personnel.
Military leaders have endorsed repeal and are confident that the troops and their families are ready, and that repeal will not negatively affect military readiness, unit cohesion, unit effectiveness, or retention. The public is also ready. Numerous polls show a majority of Republicans, Independents, Democrats, conservatives, moderates, liberals and frequent church-goers support ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
The president is expected to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk. NOW urges military leaders to move forward rapidly to certify and implement its provisions as soon as the bill becomes law. Lesbian and gay service members should not have to wait a single unnecessary day to have the same right as heterosexuals to serve openly in the military.