“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – A Roadmap to Repeal

On Thursday night, May 27, two historic votes occurred that will pave the way for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the failed and harmful policy that bans bisexual, gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the US military.

The House of Representatives voted to include language that repeals DADT in the Defense Authorization bill that subsequently passed with a vote of 229 to 186.  On the same evening, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to include the same language in their version of the Defense Authorization bill.  These are crucial first steps towards a full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, but the policy remains in place.  Service members are still being fired if they are found to be bisexual, gay or lesbian.  If you or someone you know is serving in the military, please read SLDN’s warning to service members.

The Senate bill is expected to be sent to the floor for a vote later this summer.  If the bill passes the Senate, both bills will be reviewed by a conference committee during the August recess.  The House and Senate will then vote on the conference report, which could conceivably put the Defense Authorization Act on the President’s desk by early October.

Public pressure to repeal DADT has gotten us this far, but we must keep it up if repeal language is to stay intact throughout this process.  In the run up to a Senate vote, the amendments could be weakened or stricken altogether by opponents of repeal.  Even if the amendments go through as part of the final bill, the President and Pentagon leaders must certify that the military is prepared for repeal.   They must show that the change in policy is consistent with current military standards of readiness, effectiveness, unit cohesion, recruitment and retention.

The Pentagon is studying how to implement repeal and how it will affect service members and their families.  The decision whether or not to certify repeal will be based on the results of this study, which will be submitted on or before December 1, 2010.  60 days after the President transmits his certification to Congress, repeal of DADT will go into effect.

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will not immediately allow for open service.  It does, however pave the way for the military to put policies and regulations into place allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly.  Several top military officials, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, support full repeal and open service.

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is only the first step to open and safe service for gay and lesbian soldiers.  The language in the Defense Authorization bills does not require the military to create policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  As a matter of precedent, the military sets its own non-discrimination policies and federal law has never done so – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, has never applied to the armed forces.  Discrimination and harassment in the military based on sexual orientation will take time and effort to eradicate, but last week’s victories present the best opportunity for progress towards this goal in the history of our nation’s military.

The President, top Pentagon leaders, and a majority of members of Congress support DADT repeal.  Those who believe that our military must reflect American values of dignity, integrity and honesty know that open service is the only way to allow all members of the armed forces to live out these values.  As advocates of full equality for bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender people, the UUA and its members are called to support all legislation that protects people from discrimination, violence and exclusion based on their identities.  Click here for more information on the UUA’s work to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Stories from the Frontlines – Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Unitarian Universalist Joan Darrah is helping Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) launch their new media campaign, “Stories from the Frontlines: Letters to President Barack Obama”. Every day for the next month, leading up to House and Senate votes on the Defense Authorization bill, SLDN will publish a different letter to President Obama from a veteran who was impacted by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. The Defense Authorization bill is the most appropriate and likely legislative vehicle for DADT repeal language to pass both houses of Congress and become law.

According to SLDN spokespeople, this campaign will “underscore the urgent need for congressional action and presidential leadership at this critical point in the fight to repeal DADT.” The letters will tell individual veterans’ stories as they urge the President to include DADT repeal in his recommendations for the defense authorization bill and to be a strong advocate for repeal with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Read Joan Darrah’s letter to President Obama, and take action today!

Senate Bill Introduced to Repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”

UPDATE: Watch news Coverage of UU Joan Darrah.

Earlier today, Senator Joseph Lieberman introduced legislation in the United States Senate that would end the ban which prevents bisexual, gay and lesbian Americans from serving openly in the military. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Carl Levin, and Roland Burris were among the 11 original co-sponsors of the bill (officially titled the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010), which would repeal the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and instead ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

It’s been a busy day for UUs! Retired Navy Captain Joan Darrah, and Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett (ret), both members of the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria, VA, spoke today at two different press events in Washington, D.C. announcing the introduction. Rob Keithan, Director of the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy, sent a letter to all 50 Senators asking them to support the bill. Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee held hearings on the version of the bill that is currently before the House of Representatives.

In addition to celebrating this step forward, let’s move our advocacy efforts into high gear. Please take a moment now to email your members of Congress and tell them how important it is that they pass legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010!

UUs Advocate, DADT Repeal Moves Forward in Senate

Beth Coye
UU advocate Beth Coye

In news reports from February 22, Senator Joseph Lieberman announced that he will be introduce a bill next week in the Senate to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.   Since early February, efforts to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) the policy of forced discrimination against bisexuals, gays, and lesbians in the military, have met with approval and support from President Obama and the Pentagon, but Congress must pass legislation before the policy can be ended for good.

The time is ripe to repeal DADT. A new report by the Palm Center on the experiences of foreign militaries finds that a swift and decisive policy change allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly could be accomplished with little or no disruption to the armed services. These findings echo the results of a 1993 RAND Corporation study that discouraged the gradual implementation of such a change, as proposed by the Pentagon.

As Unitarian Universalists and allies, we can help end discrimination in the military by sharing our stories and values with members of Congress and in the public square.   Outspoken and courageous UU veterans such as Beth Coye,  a member of the Rogue Valley UU Fellowship, have shared their experiences serving as gay and lesbian service members.  You can read Beth’s op-ed in the Oregonian and check out the links in this article for an interview,  including Beth’s perspectives on how working to repeal DADT puts her UU values into action.

Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is among the top priorities of the UUA Washington Office for Advocacy.   Since last month, over 1,000 Unitarian Universalists and friends have responded to calls to action by writing letters and sending emails to their Senators and Representatives urging support for DADT repeal as soon as possible.  If you haven’t already, contact your member of Congress today.

Lets Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010

Retired U.S. Navy Captain Joan Darrah
This call to action comes from Joan Darrah, who is a survivor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) and a member of the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria, VA.

On February 2nd before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADM Mullen, in his testimony about DADT, stated:

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity—theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates, General Colin Powell, and an overwhelming majority of the American people also support repealing DADT and finally allowing gays to serve openly with honor. It is time for the U.S. Senate to act and our UU voices will make a difference. Please take a minute or two and e-mail or call your Senators and urge them to support legislation to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and vote for repeal this year.

The best way to erase the law from the books in 2010 is for the Obama Administration to include repeal in the defense authorization bill and then for Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to include repeal of the law in the defense bill he reports out of his committee.

Everything about DADT is contrary to everything that Unitarian Universalists stand for. Please make your voice be heard. Thank you for taking action.

Support Lt. Dan Choi

Embedded video from CNN Video

Lieutenant Dan Choi is being fired from the New York National Guard because of his sexual orientation. Lt. Choi acknowledges that he is just one of tens of thousands, but we recognize him as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with this policy of forced discrimination. A West Point grad, infantry officer, Arabic linguist, and Iraq vet – whose soldiers know he is gay, and support him – is being dismissed. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” deprives competent and dedicated service members of their right to employment.

You can speak out today! Ask President Obama not to fire Lt. Choi and to do everything in his power to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.

Please call the White House Switchboard at 202-456-1111. Click here to learn more.

Repeal "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" Now!

On Friday March 13th, Unitarian Universalists joined with hundreds of other Americans at a “Freedom to Serve” rally on Capitol Hill. People from all across the country – military, retired military, federal workers, and civilians – gathered to raise their voices for equality and call upon Congress and President Obama to take action to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” (DADT) the policy which requires the military to fire people if they are discovered to have same sex partners. The message was clear: The time to stop unjust discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of the military is now. Guest speakers included Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, US Navy (Ret) from the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church.

UUs can have a significant impact on this issue. If each and every UU would reach out to his or her Senator and Representative by e-mail, phone, fax and/or letter and encourage them to support the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1283) repealing DADT and replacing it with a policy of non-discrimination, DADT could be repealed during this Congress. Our UU voices can give Congress and our President the courage they need to move this legislation forward. Click here to learn more and take action today.

News from The Frontlines of Equality

Yesterday, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1283) was introduced by Representative Ellen Tauscher from California. This bill enhances the readiness of the Armed Forces by replacing the current policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces, referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Click here and search for “HR 1283” to see a summary of the bill and to find out if your representative is among the 121 cosponsors.

For more information on how you can support this bill by asking your representatives to cosponsor and/or vote for it, please see the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) website. SLDN is organizing a rally and lobby day on March 13th in Washington DC in order to gather support for this important piece of legislation. Please come if you are able and stay tuned to our social justice web pages for updated opportunities for action!

Activist Joan Darrah writes about her committment to Repealing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

Joan Darrah, a retired Navy Captain and Unitarian Universalist testified in August at the House Armed Services Committee Hearing about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Below she recounts why she works as an activist to repeal “Don’t’ Ask, Don’t Tell.” Also, check out the story about Joan on the UUA website. In honor of National Coming Out Day, click here to write to Senators McCain and Obama asking them to support bi-sexual, gay, lesbian and transgender rights as President.

The events of Sept 11 caused many of us to stop and reassess our lives, our priorities and our purpose for being. On September 11th I had attended a meeting at the Pentagon which was adjourned at 9:30. At 9:37 when American flight #77 slammed into the Pentagon, I was standing at the Pentagon Bus Stop. The space I had left only 7 minutes earlier was completely destroyed and 7 of my co-workers were killed. If I had been killed, my partner, then of almost 11 years, would have been the last to know as I had not dared to list her in any of my emergency contact information. My close call, made me realize how much of a sacrifice living under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was for me and my partner and ultimately caused me to chose to retire from the Navy one year earlier than I had planned.

I loved the Navy and am very proud of my service and our country but I know we can do better than DADT. DADT is quite simply job discrimination and the only justification for this law is blatant homophobia. There have been numerous studies conducted and there is not one piece of empirical data that supports the statement that gays serving openly would be disruptive to good order and discipline. In fact, 24 countries (including Great Britain, Australia, Canada and Israel) now allow gays to serve openly with no negative impact. My years of living under DADT and speaking with hundreds of other service members who shared my experience, have convinced me that for the good of our military and our country, this law must be repealed and replaced with a policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. I am very pleased that I have been in a position to advocate for repeal and to be a spokesperson for literally thousands of men and women who are forced to serve in silence.

I can’t begin to express how incredibly important it has been to me to have the support of my fellow Mount Vernon Unitarian Universalists (UUs) and also the near unanimous support of the thousands of UUs who attended the 2007 GA. As many of you know, when you are a minority trying to convince the majority that we should all enjoy the same rights and privileges and all be judged on our performance and ability, every now and then there is a tendency to waiver in your determination and question the worthiness of your cause. On July 23rd when I walked into the Congressional hearing room, the knowledge that I had the strong backing of so many UU’s was essential to my being able to maintain my strength and determination.

The good news is that public opinion is changing and a recent ABC poll revealed that 75% of the public supports open service by gays – up from 44% in 1993 when DADT was enacted. However, there is still more work to be done and more Representatives and Senators to be convinced. As UUs who believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people, I know you already “get” that DADT is wrong but all of our voices need to be heard in Washington. Please take a few minutes to send your Representative and Senators a quick e-mail or letter expressing your support for repeal of DADT. Thank you so much for your support.

Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Last week, the House Armed Services Committee held its first hearing in fifteen years regarding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy put into place in 1993 by President Clinton. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prevents gay, lesbian and bisexual members of the military from being open about their sexual orientation. Since 1994, over 11,000 people have been discharged from the military due to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

However, last week’s hearing offered a great amount of hope for the future of BGLT service members. Testimony was heard from many, including retired Captain Joan Darrah, United States Navy, a member of the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in Virginia. The majority of the testimonies presented favored repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a discriminatory policy that not only affects the gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of the military but all of us, whether we are friends with those affected or paying our taxes part of which help fund the firing of gay, lesbian or bisexual service members. As Unitarian Universalists and concerned citizens we must take advantage of our current momentum to take a stand against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1246) would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and replace it with a new provision prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the Armed Forces. H.R. 1246 would also allow people who have been discharged because of their sexual orientation to apply to rejoin the military. Contact your Representative and Senators today and ask them to support the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, H.R. 1246. Let’s work together to make the United States and the Armed Forces a positive place for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.