As you may know, the House of Representatives just voted to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which has banned gay service members from serving in the military. On this historic day, I wanted to share with you some thoughts about why I voted to repeal the ban.
After September 11th, a dangerous strain threatened the readiness of the members of our armed forces. Serving more tours for longer periods of time puts stress on the war fighter and the families of military personnel. At the same time, in the past five years, the military has discharged almost 800 mission-critical troops, notably Arabic and Farsi linguists needed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Allowing gay people to serve in the military would help alleviate this strain by making more people eligible to serve. Choosing the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy over our military readiness harms our national security and the safety of our men and women in battle.
The argument supporting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was underscored earlier this year by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “…it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. 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.”
As you may know, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to set in motion the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” passed tonight with bipartisan support. The amendment calls for the repeal of this policy after Pentagon completes its Comprehensive Review Working Group on how to implement the repeal. This Review is due December 1, 2010. The amendment also requires and a certification by the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and President that repeal is consistent with military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting.
As our country experiences economic challenges, and the government deficit has become dangerously high, the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy costs the government precious resources. After receiving extensive training from the military, we should not be forcing gay service members to leave the military. Experts believe that banning gay service has cost the U.S. government $1.3 billion since 1980 and that every discharge of gay service member could cost between $10,000 and $37,000.
Finally, and most importantly, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the right thing to do. It is well past time to abolish discrimination against gay Americans. Anyone who wishes to serve our country deserves to do so; and our country deserves to have a force that is ready and secure.
I am proud to have voted today to end this unfair discrimination. Of course, I will keep you updated as we move forward in this process. If you have any questions or if I can be of assistance to you, please call my office or e-mail me through my website: www.klein.house.gov.
Member of Congress