Two important events in Barack Obama's presidency this weekend underline the urgent need to walk the talk about equality for all. First was the surprise award of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for President Obama's transformational vision of a world free of nuclear weapons where all are called to address global challenges. Second was the president's eloquent speech to the Human Rights Campaign where he extolled equality for all regardless of sexual orientation. The key word in both discussions is ALL -- the universality of the humanity we all share, the challenges we all face, the commitment we all have to each other, and the call to action we all hear to live up to our ideals. In that spirit, I believe President Obama should accept his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ALL America's Military Families -- including our LBGT patriots -- and seize the moment to allow all Americans to serve as peacekeepers.
In President Obama's powerful speech to the Human Rights Campaign about equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, he said, "I am working with the Pentagon, its leadership and members of the House and Senate to end this policy. I will end Don't Ask Don't Tell. That is my commitment to you." Excellent. Now how about a timeline? As we continue to fight two wars, do we have so many active duty troops, intelligence officials, interpreters, engineers, and other military personnel that we can afford to lose the skills and service of gay Americans? I think not. With only 3% of Americans on active duty fighting two wars and engaged in peacekeeping efforts across the globe, we should be motivating more military service -- not less. If LBGT patriots are ready, willing, and able to help defend America, fight al Qaeda, and promote peace,why not let them do so?
As the Center for American Progress points out "Congress, in the Authority of the President to Suspend Certain Laws Relating to Promotion, Retirement, and Separation—10 U.S.C. § 12305—grants the president authority to suspend the separation of military members during any period of national emergency in which members of a reserve component are serving involuntarily on active duty." Thus, by early December, President Obama will have ample time to review troop needs for America's commitments around the globe, reflect on Pentagon recommendations, and rescind further military separations based upon Don't Ask Don't Tell.
Just as President Truman transformed military policy with a stroke of a pen in July 1948 by ordering the desegregation of the U.S. armed forces, President Obama can advance American security and equality in December 2009 by signing an executive order rescinding further military separations based upon Don't Ask, Don't Tell and working with Congress to complete the repeal. There is no time like the present, and no better occasion than Oslo, to show the world that all Americans join in our responsibility to peace and freedom.
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