Last week, I had the honor of meeting a proud graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, NY - Lt. Dan Choi. Lt. Choi came to my office to meet me and discuss how we right the wrong that has occurred in his life and ensure others do not experience the same injustice.
In 2003, Lt. Dan Choi graduated from West Point with a degree in Arabic. Since graduating, Lt. Choi has served honorably in the 1st Bn., 69th Infantry of the New York Army National Guard, including a deployment in Iraq. Now, it appears his service may come to an end simply because he has publicly said these three words: "I am gay."
Lt. Dan Choi is not alone. Since 1994 when the law was implemented, approximately 13,000 able, knowledgeable, well-trained soldiers have been discharged from the US military for being gay. 800 of those discharged soldiers were -- like Lt. Choi -- experts in mission critical disciplines.
Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) comes with a severe financial burden as well. Estimates of the cost of implementing Don't Ask Don't Tell from 1994-2003 -- including recruitment, re-training and separation travel costs -- have ranged from almost $200 million to $363 million. This is millions of dollars that could have been...and should have been...spent on crucial personnel and equipment for our military.
In the discharge letter sent to Lt. Choi, authorities claimed that soldiers, such as Choi, "negatively affect good order and discipline" within their units by being openly gay. This is directly contradicted by opinion polls of servicemembers, which say that the more they are aware of their fellow soldiers' homosexuality, the less they feel it's a factor in their service.
In December 2007, 28 retired generals and admirals urged Congress to repeal the policy. They pointed to the fact that 65,000 gay men and women are currently serving in the armed forces, and that there are over 1,000,000 gay veterans. Now, more than 100 retired U.S. military leaders -- including the former head of the Naval Academy -- have signed on to a statement calling for an end to DADT policy. During a time when our military is engaged in multiple wars abroad, and the potential for future conflicts on the horizon, it is critical not to undermine our military's effectiveness and readiness.
I am firmly committed to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. To that end, I am working closely with Congressman Murphy and Senator Kennedy's offices to develop support for repeal legislation and will be among the original co-sponsors of the bill when it's introduced. In the weeks and months ahead, I plan to work with Lt. Choi to repair the damage that has been done to his career and spare thousands of innocent, brave men and women, from the same injustice.