Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks this afternoon in the Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) Auditorium at an enrollment ceremony with Democratic Members of the House and Senate and service members to sign legislation repealing the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. The House passed the bill last week; the Senate passed it Saturday. The bill now goes to President Obama, who will sign it into law tomorrow. Below are the Speaker's opening remarks and closing statement.
Speaker Pelosi on Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
"We are here to affirm a core American principle: that anyone who wishes to serve, secure, and defend this country should be welcomed, judged by their abilities, and honored for their sacrifice. We will strengthen our national security and recognize the contributions of all Americans, the contributions that they have made to our nation's defense. And we will fulfill our pledge to make "Don't Ask, Don't Tell' a memory by the end of this year."
Speaker Pelosi Opening Remarks:
"Welcome to the House. Good afternoon. Today we have come together to close the door on a fundamental unfairness in our nation. [Applause.] We have gathered to advance and honor America's cherished values of equality and equal rights.
"When President Obama--and thank you President Obama and Vice President Biden for your leadership on all of this. [Applause.] When President Obama signs the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell' into law tomorrow, we will begin to open the doors to our armed forces to all patriotic Americans regardless of their sexual orientation. Oh happy day!
"We are here to affirm a core American principle: that anyone who wishes to serve, secure, and defend this country should be welcomed, judged by their abilities, and honored for their sacrifice. We will strengthen our national security and recognize the contributions of all Americans, the contributions that they have made to our nation's defense. And we will fulfill our pledge to make "Don't Ask, Don't Tell' a memory by the end of this year. [Applause.]
"We congratulate our colleagues in the United States Senate--Senator Lieberman and Senator Collins. And I want to acknowledge and welcome some members of the Senate to the House side. You will be hearing from them in an uncharacteristic 30-second toast to all of you. Many of them served in the House, so they are used to brevity from here. Senator Barbara Boxer. [Applause.] Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. [Applause.] Senator Mark Udall. [Applause.] Senator Patrick Leahy. [Applause.]
"On the House side, we are very, very proud of a person who served our country on the battlefield and served our country in the Congress, the author of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the House--Patrick Murphy. [Applause.] And while you're standing, let's acknowledge the great leadership of Barney Frank. [Applause.] Tammy Baldwin. [Applause.] Jared Polis. [Applause.] And Susan Davis, the chair of the subcommittee on military personnel. [Applause.]
"And now I am pleased to yield the floor to the gentleman from Maryland, the distinguished Democratic Leader in the House, Steny Hoyer."
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Speaker Pelosi Closing Remarks:
"Our first responsibility as elected officials is to protect the American people. It is part of the oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, the people of our country, the values of our country. All of us on this stage take in that oath and perhaps many of you have in your various capacities. But keeping America safe, again, our first responsibility, has to happen with the fullest participation of all Americans.
"Many honors are afforded Members of Congress. I can't think of one that surpasses the honor that I will have now to sign the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' [Applause.]
"But before I do, all of this on this stage and our colleagues who are here and on behalf of House and Senate, Senator Reid, Senator Lieberman, Senator Collins, so many others who worked so hard on this. We want to salute you for what you have done for our country, for your fight to promote this fundamental right for all Americans. So let us give you a standing ovation. [Applause.] Okay, you can cheer yourselves too. [Applause.]
"Here we go. [Speaker picks up the bill.] This is what the bill looks like, except it is longer than this. Once it is signed, it will go down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, where tomorrow President Obama, who has led us in this fight, will sign the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'
"This same legislation, again, will change the law, improve the policy, make life better for many Americans and make our country stronger. Thank you all for making this happen.
"And now it is my honor to sign the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' [Applause.]
"Almost--we have to use a lot of pens. The President does this faster and left-handed. [Laughter.] And Vice President Biden, he was so helpful with this and Secretary Gates, as was mentioned, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mullen was so wonderful. But it took all of you. That would make a lot of pens.
"Isn't this a joyful day? Isn't it exciting? Here we are -- repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell!'"
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Bios of Service Members Joining Speaker Pelosi Onstage:
Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, USAF (Active Duty); a decorated aviator and was notified that his commander was seeking to discharge him under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in September 2008. Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is only 10 months from reaching his 20-year retirement in September 2011. Throughout his distinguished service he has attained nine Air Medals and currently works on desk duty at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho awaiting the results of more than two years of investigations and discharge proceedings.
Former Major Mike Almy, USAF; a decorated service member who testified before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee about his discharge in 2006. If "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) ended today, he'd re-enlist tomorrow. The military searched his personal emails while he was deployed in Iraq during a routine computer maintenance check. Almy's command asked him his sexual orientation based on content from the emails. Per the investigation, Almy made no statement of his homosexuality -- even after being asked by his superiors. He is one of six officers selected from the entire Air force to attend Professional Military Education at Quantico, Virginia. Deployed to the Middle East four times.
Former Sergeant First Class Stacy Vasquez, USA; started her career with the United States Army in 1991, immediately after high school. Vasquez was later selected as the Distinguished Honor Graduate from both recruiting school and advanced non-commissioned officer paralegal studies courses. During Vasquez' annual evaluation in 2002, she was cited as the top recruiter in the Army and told she should be promoted ahead of her peers. In January 2003, Vasquez's commander told her that a co-worker's wife had seen Vasquez kissing a woman at a club in Dallas. She was discharged from the Army in August 2003.