Even though President Obama and the majority of the American people want Don't Ask, Don't Tell gone, there has yet to be much movement on the issue of gays serving openly in the military. That changed today, as Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut introduced the Senate's first DADT repeal bill along with 11 Democratic cosponsors including Illinois Sen. Roland Burris.
Burris joined Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York among others to get rid of the policy, which has led to the discharge of at least 13,000 qualified gay and lesbian service members since DADT was enacted in 1993.
"For too long, gay and lesbian service members have been forced to conceal their sexual orientation in order to dutifully serve their country," Burris said in a statement. "With this bill, we will end this discriminatory policy that grossly undermines the strength of our fighting men and women at home and abroad."
The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010 would repeal DADT, which banned lesbian and gay soldiers from serving openly, and replace it with a policy that prohibits discrimination against service members on the basis of their sexual orientation, Lieberman told The Advocate.
He told the magazine that the nondiscrimination provision would make the change "more permanent legislatively," so a future administration could not revert back to DADT or policies like it.
No Republican senators were on board as of Wednesday afternoon, but Lieberman told the Advocate he thinks more than one Republican could come forward in favor of it. In any case, he said there is significant support for ending the policy and hopes it can be passed this year--unless a filibuster holds up the process.
"I think a guess right now -- and this is really a guess -- if this bill came to a vote tomorrow, we'd have over 50 votes and that's saying a lot," Lieberman told the Advocate "Do we have 60? Not clear yet, but possible."
Sen. Burris has been a vocal supporter of LGBT rights during his time in office, as he pointed out in a release about the new bill. Burris co-sponsored the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Act, which provides a definition of hate crimes, and assists law enforcement agencies in prosecuting hate crimes. He also co-sponsored the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act. Both were signed into law by President Obama last year.
Burris added: "This legislation will ensure that all gay and lesbian soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines can serve their country openly and proudly without the threat of prejudice or discharge."