The United States is moving closer to repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT), a policy that requires lesbian and gay servicemembers to conceal their sexual orientation or face expulsion from the military.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 234-194 to allow the Department of Defense to repeal the policy after the completion of a Pentagon implementation study. The vote came just hours after the Senate Armed Service Committee approved similar legislation by a vote of 16-12.
DADT has long been opposed by civil and human rights organizations as being discriminatory and counterproductive, depriving the military of access to individuals committed to defending our country. In a May 26 letter (see full letter below) to the House, The Leadership Conference said:
When it was first proposed in 1993, we believed that the policy of DADT was wrong from both a moral and practical standpoint. DADT turned its back on the principle that people who are willing and able to do a job should be given a fair opportunity to do it. This is not only one of the most important principles behind the struggle, throughout our nation’s history, to guarantee the civil and human rights of all people – it is also a matter of sound military strategy and common sense as well.
The percentage of Americans who believe that openly gay and lesbian servicemembers should be allowed to serve in the military has increased from 44 percent in 1993, when DADT was introduced, to 75 percent in 2009. More than 13,500 military servicemembers have been discharged under DADT.
Repeal efforts picked up steam this year when President Obama called for repeal in his State of the Union address in January. In February, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, announced the creation of a working group to evaluate how to implement a full repeal. The working group is due to complete its study by December 1. The legislation would permit repeal 60 days after the report.