Today, the Department of Defense released regulations that will limit the circumstances under which a service member can be investigated and discharged from the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
These new regulations will have a tangible impact on the thousands of lesbian and gay service members who are currently serving in silence, under threat of being investigated and discharged. Specifically, raising the level of the commander authorized to initiate a discharge investigation, revising the threshold for credible information and third-party allegations, and protecting disclosure to medical and psychological personnel and for other non-military purposes, are welcome and long overdue revisions to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." However, despite these changes, lesbian and gay service members will continue to risk being discharged based on their sexual orientation.
With today's step forward, Congress must also continue to move forward with legislative repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year at the same time the Pentagon continues its work to determine how to best implement that repeal. Both can and should work concurrently on repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." There is no reason for Congress to wait for the details on implementation when Secretary Gates and the President have made it clear that this law should be repealed.
We cannot forget that thousands of men and women -- who serve just as honorably and bravely as their straight peers -- still cannot serve openly. We welcome this step forward, but we can't stop fighting for full repeal. It would be tragic to allow progress to lead to inaction. Now is the time to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and this is the year.
The Administration has reconfirmed its position in favor of ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" -- through these regulations, through the nation's military leadership, and through our President. With health insurance reform signed into law, now is the time for more visible and aggressive leadership from the White House to push for a vote on repeal this year.
When "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was enacted in 1993, it was done as part of the annual Department of Defense Authorization bill. Congress will consider this year's bill as soon as late May, and it is the right vehicle for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The LGBT community has called upon the President and Congress to include repeal in the bill, and in light of today's Department of Defense announcement, we echo these calls to include repeal in that vehicle.
Our community is doing the work to secure successful passage. By the thousands, we are lobbying our members of Congress, making veterans' stories heard, and steadily moving both public opinion and key members to the "yes" column. HRC launched the Repeal DADT Now campaign that is mobilizing veterans, their families, and average Americans in targeted states, and have an extensive field team on the ground in six key states. Over the past year, our members and supporters have completed over 190,000 phone calls and emails to members of Congress, submitted 1,200 letters to editors, and arranged 250 in-district lobby visits to change our laws. Early this month, 275 Human Rights Campaign members from around the country traveled to Capitol Hill to lobby for repeal. We will keep delivering, but not alone.
The United States Congress can and must move forward while the military prepares its implementation plans. Decades of studies show us that a fully integrated military is no threat to morale or preparedness, and our allies' experience with open service bears these studies out. The public has a role to play as well, and this has been the Human Rights Campaign's work over the past year. The futures of lesbian and gay service members depend on our continued mobilization efforts, moving critical votes in the Senate and House, and keeping the pressure on the Administration. Thousands of lesbian and gay service members are dedicated to protecting us. We must swiftly repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and live up to their example.