07/23/2012 11:22 am ET Updated Sep 22, 2012

SLDN to Panetta: The Time Is Now for Concrete Action

A year ago yesterday, President Obama, Admiral Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta certified that the United States military was ready to implement the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). It was a momentous occasion, and a genuine example of strong vision and determined leadership bringing about real change. While everyone acknowledged there was more work to be done in order to successfully implement the repeal, it was a day of celebration.

Yet, despite an historic LGBT Pride event at the Pentagon in June, there has been woefully little
concrete action from the Department of Defense in the past year to ensure a lasting successful implementation of repeal. SLDN has written to Secretary Panetta several times urging the extension of benefits where he has the authority to do so. Senior members of the Secretary's staff -- both civilian and military -- have been actively reviewing this issue for months. In fact, at their invitation, we brought service members and their spouses to the Pentagon to meet with the review team to discuss these benefits.

A year is more than enough time to make a decision, and we are puzzled that no action has been taken. The successful implementation of repeal requires that all can serve free from harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation. But it also requires equal support and benefits for gay and lesbian service members and their families. Without equal support and benefits, the United States military has two classes of service members: both providing the same service and demonstrating the same commitment to defending this country, but with one asked to make additional and unnecessary sacrifices to do so.

Committed and strong leadership from the Pentagon was one of the key components of winning
the repeal of DADT. Likewise, it will require the same determination and leadership to ensure its
successful implementation. At SLDN, we urge Secretary Panetta to exercise his authority without further delay to extend benefits where he can to the families of gay and lesbian service members.