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Repeal The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, D.C.

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Mr. PATRICK J. MURPHY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the subject of my Special Order.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Pennsylvania?

There was no objection.

Mr. PATRICK J. MURPHY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, tonight, October 6, at 10:03 p.m., we have a very special night. My colleagues and I stand here tonight to champion the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell is important. It's important for three reasons.

Number one, it is vital to our national security that we repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We have kicked out over 13,000 troops since we enacted this law 16 years ago. We have kicked out over 400 troops just this year, in 2009. When our commanders on the ground are desperate for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, now is not the time to throw them out--not for any type of sexual misconduct, but just because they're gay.

Number two, do we need to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell because it is doing right by our taxpayers? It is costing the American taxpayer $1.3 billion to throw these young American heroes out of our military just because of their sexual orientation. It costs the American taxpayer $60,000 to recruit these young heroes to come in, to train them up, to make them warriors, and then we just disregard them just because of their sexual orientation.

And, lastly, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy goes against the very fabric of what makes our country the greatest country on Earth, the fact that we're all created equal.

Mr. Speaker, we have colleagues, Members of this great House here tonight to argue about the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. There are 176 cosponsors to repeal this act, but one of these Members is the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve the United States Congress. He was a command sergeant major. That is the highest rank you can become in the United States Army in the enlisted ranks. He is a sophomore Congressman from Minnesota. His name is TIM WALZ. He is an American patriot and a hero, and I'd like to turn it over to my colleague and my friend, TIM WALZ from the great State of Minnesota.

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Mr. PATRICK J. MURPHY of Pennsylvania. I thank the gentleman from Minnesota. There are two points that he mentioned that I would like to highlight. The first is the fact that there are 27 other nations that allow their troops to serve openly. Some of our toughest allies--Great Britain, Israel, the Aussies--they all allow their troops to serve openly with no detrimental effects.

Secondly, the command sergeant major mentioned Iwo Jima. I spoke to 250 senior leaders in the United States Army yesterday, and, unsolicited, I got an e-mail this morning from one of those colonels that I met with. And this Army colonel wrote me a note, and he said, ``In fact, gay men and women have been serving honorably in our military for decades.'' He sent me a moving passage from a book about World War II entitled, ``Stories from the Pacific.'' Reflecting on his experiences, a Marine wrote:

``That lesson of tolerance was well learned by the men in our company. During three amphibious campaigns in which we took part in Bougainville to Iwo Jima, valor and unselfishness were commonplace. I saw bravery and sacrifice all around me.

``One of the most courageous men I met was our Navy corpsman, Billy Hauger, a teenage boy who always put our well-being ahead of his own. In combat, he cared for us. He bandaged our wounds and comforted our men as they died. Often he would leave his position of relative safety and move out into the hail of enemy gunfire to treat a downed marine or pull a man to safety.

``On Iwo Jima, he risked his life time and time again to take care of his fellow men. On his last rescue attempt, he was badly wounded when a Japanese Nambu machine gun put a round through his thigh and another high in his chest. Billy's wounds were life-threatening, and he was quickly transported out to the hospital ship for treatment. But Billy didn't make it.

``Billy was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, our Nation's second highest honor for extraordinary heroism under fire. I loved Billy Hauger then and I will always love him. Billy Hauger was a homosexual. Every single marine in our company will be proud to stand with him and call him friend and brother.''

He's looking down from heaven right now, and he's looking at us in this hall today. And I'm proud to stand with every one of you as we champion the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

With that, I yield to my colleague, the congresswoman from California, Mrs. LOIS CAPPS.

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Mr. PATRICK J. MURPHY of Pennsylvania. I would like to highlight of this report--which is a terrific report--Colonel Prakash writes, ``There are potential lessons to learn from other countries that have lifted the ban on homosexuals serving openly. There was no mass exodus of heterosexuals, there was no mass `coming-out' of homosexuals. Prior to lifting their bans, in Canada 62 percent of servicemen stated that they would refuse to share showers with a gay soldier, and in the United Kingdom, two-thirds of males stated that they would not willingly serve in the military if gays were allowed. In both cases, after lifting their bans, the result was ``no effect.''

In a survey of over 100 experts from Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom, it was found that all agreed the decision to lift the ban on homosexuals had no impact on military performance, readiness, cohesion, or ability to recruit or retain. Nor did it increase the HIV rate among troops.''

He concludes his article by saying, as you mentioned, ``Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been costly both in personnel and treasure. In an attempt to allow homosexual servicemembers to serve quietly, a law was created by this Congress that forces a compromise in integrity, conflicts with the American creed of `equality for all,' places commanders in difficult moral dilemmas, and is ultimately more damaging to the unit cohesion its stated purpose is to preserve.

``Furthermore, after a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly. In fact, the necessarily speculative psychological predictions are that it will not impact combat effectiveness.

``Based on this research, it is not time for the administration to reexamine the issue; rather, it is time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban.''

And that, my friends, is from the Joint Force Quarterly. That is a publication from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of our country.

With that, I would like to now turn it over to the congresswoman from California, Ms. Lynn Woolsey

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PATRICK J. MURPHY of Pennsylvania. I thank the gentleman from Illinois. Those personal stories of our heroes that wrote to you are very powerful and very moving. I will tell you since I took over the leadership of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell by enacting the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, I have gotten letters from all over the country and from overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one of those letters that touched my heart and frankly broke my heart was from a soldier in Afghanistan. See, when I served in Iraq 6 years ago, I had 19 of my fellow paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne Division that gave the ultimate sacrifice. But one of them committed suicide. One of those 19 never made it home to see his family again. But this letter broke my heart because, and you will see, this hero was dealing with the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

He writes: ``Sir, as you know, military spouses and other family members are important parts of the larger `team' that is essential for our national defense. But such support is fundamentally closed off to the partners of gay servicemembers, even though these partners may be making the exact the same sacrifices as their straight counterparts.

``And it's even worse. Gay servicemembers and their committed partners have to worry that an overheard phone call, an intercepted email, or other type of compromised private communication could lead to a humiliating, career-destroying investigation. This is no way to treat American patriots.

``I write of these matters from personal experience. When the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, I was in a serious long-term relationship. The extensive active duty I did after 9/11 put a serious strain on this relationship. The relationship fell completely apart during my first deployment to Afghanistan in 2003.

``One of the big risk factors contributing to soldier suicides is the breakup of serious relationships. This is exactly what I experienced, and in the context of a combat zone deployment. I can still vividly remember sitting alone in Afghanistan, cradling my government-issued pistol in my hands and fighting the urge to blow my own brains out.

``What made that personal struggle in Afghanistan particularly difficult was the isolation that was imposed on me as a consequence of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. A straight soldier in a similar state of crisis could go to his commander, his first sergeant, or his `battle buddy' for support. But if I as a gay soldier had gone to my commander with the details of my situation, he would have been obligated to start the process of kicking me out of the Army.

``The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is wrong. I say this not just as an individual soldier, but also as someone with extensive experience as both a platoon leader and company commander. When I have been in such leadership positions, I have had straight soldiers share with me some of the most shockingly intimate details about their personal lives. I was glad that these straight soldiers put their trust in me, because I was able to offer each one the counsel or moral support that he or she needed at that time.

``Gay soldiers should also have that right to go to a commander, a first sergeant, or a battle buddy and not have to the worry about the ramifications of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy shackles the hands of leaders like me. It prevents us from giving all of our troops the supportive leadership they deserve. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy throws up walls between battle buddies. It is an ugly stain on our national honor.''

I now yield to the new freshman, the gentlewoman from the great State of Maine (Ms. Pingree).

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Mr. PATRICK J. MURPHY of Pennsylvania. I thank the gentlelady from Wisconsin. And as she mentioned Lieutenant Colonel Fehrenbach, the fact that we trained him and spent millions of dollars on his training to do what's necessary to keep our family safe here at home and in a faraway place like Iraq and Afghanistan, and just to throw him out and just discharge him like that is really a stain. It is a stain on our military. And it's a stain on this Congress for not acting quick enough.

It reminds me--you know, I had the great honor to teach at West Point. I taught constitutional law at the United States Military Academy at West Point. I was there from 2000 to 2003. And Forbes Magazine just rated West Point the number one college in America. It costs the American taxpayer about a quarter-million dollars to train each one of those cadets to become second lieutenants, to become leaders of character, not just for the 5-year active duty military commitment, but for a lifetime of service.

One of those cadets when I taught there was Lieutenant Dan Choi. Lieutenant Choi is an Arabic speaker, an Army officer, an Iraq war veteran and another one, one of the 13,000 that we just threw out of the military, not for any type of sexual misconduct. And let's be clear. If there's sexual misconduct, whether homosexual or of a heterosexual nature, throw them out. But just because he was gay, just because of his sexual orientation, and that is wrong. I'd now like to turn it over to my colleague, Mr. JARED POLIS, for any comments that he may have.

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