The American military is the key defense force that protects all Americans, and is responsible for portraying a positive image of American values abroad. Disallowing a group of people to serve in the military due to sexual orientation runs contrary to the principles upon which this country was founded. President Obama himself committed to ending the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy in his State of the Union Speech, "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," and the College Democrats of America fully support the President in seeking an end to 'Don't Ask Don't Tell."
The United States military is an organization that prides itself on integrity. "Don't Ask Don't Tell" forces military members to lie to one another about their sexual orientation in order to serve. If "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is ended, gays and lesbians will be able to openly serve in the military and no longer be forced to compromise this integrity.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that the Pentagon will start to ease its enforcement of the policy by increasing the threshold for the amount of information needed to initiate a "credible inquiry" into allegations of homosexuality. And while this policy is a step in the right direction it does not replace the need for repealing the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy all together. As Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said, "[The new limits are] not a substitute for repeal, but an important step toward it."
Earlier this year the United States House of Representatives took historic action by introducing a bill to end "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (HR 1283) and to allow for full and open representation of gay and lesbian soldiers in the military. And in early March 11 Democratic members of the United States Senate co-sponsored a companion bill in the Senate. The co-sponsors who introduced this bill span the nation from New York to Oregon, Minnesota to New Mexico. "The very strongest fighting force demands that we recruit and retain those who have the skills and knowledge to fulfill their missions," stated Senator Wyden (D-OR). "Their private lives should have no bearing on their willingness or ability to serve. This legislation undoes an injustice that has kept far too many excellent Americans from wearing a military uniform."
Bringing an end to "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is an issue with broad appeal. Indeed, ending "Don't Ask Don't Tell" has significant support across political affiliations. In a recent New York Times poll nearly 60% of all Americans, including Democrats, Independents, and Republicans surveyed stated that they believed Gays and Lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the Armed Forces. Diverse overwhelming consensus is rare, which is further evidence that "Don't Ask Don't Tell" should be overturned.
The next major step will be ensuring passage of the proposed House and Senate bills out of their respective Armed Services committees, and then guaranteeing the requisite number of votes in each legislative body. To further this goal the College Democrats LGBT and Veterans Caucuses are currently running a joint program this month that will employ phone-banking and letter writing to Armed Services Committee members, letters-to-the-editor, and holding rallies in support of ending "Don't Ask Don't Tell."
Discharging over 13,000 soldiers because of their sexuality is in violation of the principles of this nation, as is forcing thousands of other service members to keep their sexuality secret. In the interests of human rights and furthering the most capable military in the world the College Democrats of America will continue to support President Obama's agenda for an end to "Don't Ask Don't Tell."