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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of Senate Amendment to H.R. 2965, Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, House Resolution 1764 provides for the consideration of the Senate amendment to H.R. 2965. The rule makes in order a motion offered by the majority leader or his designee that the House concur in the Senate amendment to H.R. 2965 with the amendment printed in the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying the resolution.

The rule provides 1 hour of debate on the motion, equally divided and controlled by the majority leader and the minority leader or their designees. The rule waives all points of order against any consideration of the motion except those arising under clause 10 of rule XXI. The rule provides that the Senate amendment and the motion shall be considered as read.

Madam Speaker, the time has come to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. We have all heard the arguments, the studies have been done, the hearings have been held. The men and women of the armed services have spoken and their leaders have weighed in. There are no more excuses not to repeal this misguided and harmful policy. There is no more reason to delay this any longer.

Madam Speaker, for gay military personnel, how much longer do we ask them to serve in silence? How many more hearings and how much more testimony are we going to ask for before we finally hear what the men and women of the armed services have just said: Just because someone is gay doesn't make them any less of a soldier, an airman, or a marine. How many more times can we just turn our heads and pretend we don't see the damage this policy has done to our military's readiness? And how many more competent, talented, and patriotic men and women will be kicked out of the service before this misguided and harmful policy is forever banned?

The results of the comprehensive study of the attitudes of military personnel are clear and unequivocal. It is right here.

When they were asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a coworker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92 percent of the military personnel stated that the unit's ability to work together was ``very good,'' ``good,'' or ``neither good nor poor.''

When they were asked about having a servicemember in their immediate unit who said he or she was gay and how that would affect the unit's ability to work together to get the job done, 70 percent of servicemembers predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or absolutely no effect.

And it is not just the men and women who make up our Armed Forces who are urging Congress to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell; our Nation's military leaders also believe it needs to come to an end.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, ``I would not recommend repeal of this law if I did not believe in my soul that it was the right thing to do for our military, for our Nation, and for our collective honor.''

General George Casey, the Chief of Staff of the Army, agreed. He said repeal would not keep us from ``accomplishing our worldwide missions, including combat operations.''

And Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, said it simply: Repeal ``will not fundamentally change who we are and what we do.''

Madam Speaker, it wasn't that long ago that women were not allowed to serve in combat. When we debated ending that ban, the critics predicted that if women were allowed in combat, that discipline would dissolve and unit cohesion would crumble.

The arguments against allowing women to serve in combat were exactly the same thing they are saying today about allowing openly gay men and women to serve. But after two wars where women have served ably and bravely alongside their male counterparts, none of the grim predictions came true. Discipline has not suffered and our military remains the most powerful and effective in the world.

But those two wars have taken their toll on recruitment and retention. Our military is stretched thin, and the last thing we should be doing is kicking out skilled men and women who volunteered to fight for our country. The last thing we should be doing is telling troops that we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to train that we don't need your services anymore. And the last thing we should be doing is saying that no matter how brave you are, no matter how dedicated you are, no matter how patriotic you are, if you are gay, we don't want you to wear the uniform of the United States.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell threatens our national security. It wastes precious resources, and it goes against the values that our military embodies: integrity, honesty, and loyalty.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. PINGREE of Maine. Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from the other side of the aisle for his thoughts on this. He is getting ready to retire from Congress. I just want to say I've enjoyed the opportunity to serve with you on the Rules Committee and appreciate the thoughts that you bring to the issues that we have to deal with.

With all due respect, I want to disagree with you on one particular point, as I did earlier today in the Rules Committee, and without questioning anything that you had to say today, I will just say that my experience on the issue of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, whether it is in my position as sitting on the Armed Services Committee or with some of my colleagues on the Rules Committee who have questioned this particular bill as the vehicle, it is that sometimes I feel like people run out of substantive arguments and they go back to process and they say, well, there's something flawed about this process.

And over the 2 years that I've been here, as we've been discussing a piece of law that no longer works, that shouldn't be in law, that tells people who are gay or lesbian that they can no longer serve in the military, for the past 2 years I've heard over and over again, well, this is a flawed process. So as a member of the Armed Services Committee, even though my good colleague Representative Davis held subcommittee hearings on this issue and there has been much discussion of it, people said, well, we need to have a study.

So we got a study. It's a big, thick study. It's a wonderfully well done study. And when I had the opportunity just recently to sit in the Armed Services Committee and listen to the briefing by the military on the work they had done in this study, I have to say, I was very impressed. Something like 150,000 people participated in this study.

Now, as my colleagues know, when you're a Member of Congress or a challenger running, you're lucky to have a poll of 400 people to get their opinion. Maybe sometimes the poll has 1,200 people, and we take that as public opinion. But to ask 150,000 people associated with the military ``So, what do you think?'' is quite a piece of work, and I think it was extremely well done.

And what we were told that day in that briefing was, overwhelmingly, our military said, you know, this is just fine. Many of them said: I already know. I serve alongside someone who is a gay or lesbian member of the Armed Forces, and it doesn't bother us at all. It isn't interfering with unit cohesion or ability to fight. People said overwhelmingly: What is taking so long to change this particular provision in law?

So I look at this and I say, whether it's the vehicle that we have before us today--today, in some of the final days of this particular Congress; today, when I think we have to act with urgency here in this House, after this House has already passed this provision in the Armed Services, in the general authorization bill. We've already passed this once. We've already shown that we're in favor of this here. Now, it's back again as a standalone to make it easier for people to deal with this as an individual issue--to go back and say, well, it's all about the process, we haven't had enough process, I think shows great disrespect to those members of our Armed Forces and their leaders who have said to us: Change this, move on, get it done so those 13,000-plus soldiers who have already been told they can no longer serve in the military and we've lost the ability to use their expertise and their training and their patriotism in this country, to say that there isn't urgency today and that we should somehow allow a process argument to slow us down doesn't make any sense.

I very proudly come from the State of Maine, and something like 17 percent of our 1.3 million residents in Maine are either active duty personnel or veterans who have served this country. I go home and hear the people in my district, whether I'm talking to a veterans' group or someone who's just on their way to serve in Afghanistan or coming back or, sadly, sometimes at a military funeral, and people do not say to me, Prohibit gay and lesbian people from serving in the military. People say to me in my home district, in a State that is very dedicated to serving the military, they say, When are you going to end this process of discrimination?

And that is why we are here today. We are here to move forward on the
rule, to make sure that once and for all this House of Representatives, again, says let's repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Let's remember that this is a threat to our national security, that it's disrespectful of all of our soldiers, that there will be no serious ramifications of this, and, in fact, our military is very well prepared and has good plans to move forward on this transition.

Let's remember that this is the patriotic vote to cast. This is the vote for national security. This is the vote for respecting the investment we have made in these soldiers. This is a vote for increasing recruitment in our military and saying to even more members who currently are unsure, saying to more people who are unsure about whether or not they should join the military because they worry that they would possibly be out of it, it's a measure to say we welcome you.

Our Armed Services will be only stronger when we repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I encourage my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on the previous question and on the rule.

I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.

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