Today, Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ) joined with House and Senate members and hundreds of supporters of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - including a number of armed service members who were thrown out of the U.S. military on the sole basis of their sexual orientation - at the enrollment ceremony for this historic legislation. Rep. Rothman, a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, released the following statement:
The repeal of the discriminatory policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is historic legislation that will ensure that our country's laws are applied equally and will improve our national security. Many thought that this day would never come and said it was a lost cause to pursue, but in passing the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" we made history. Now these brave, ready, and able individuals will be allowed to serve their country in the U.S. military without discrimination.
The U.S. Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment, requires the government to apply our laws equally. That is why, under this new legislation, only negative conduct, not one's sexual orientation, will be grounds for dismissal from our nation's military.
Also, in my opinion, our country's national security has been hurt by the U.S. armed forces having sent home more than 13,500 qualified, patriotic service members since 1994 who were willing and fit to serve our country. In each instance, there was no behavior unbecoming a member of the armed service.
Investing many millions of dollars to train these individuals, and then dismissing them in the absence of bad conduct, has wasted many millions of precious taxpayer dollars and unnecessarily added to the strain on our already overburdened armed forces.
The Pentagon's November 30, 2010 comprehensive study of the policy concluded that the repeal would not have a major impact on morale or readiness. The results also showed that 70% of our service members believe that the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would have either a positive effect or no effect on their ability to complete missions.
I am privileged to have had the opportunity to vote in favor of equality and to allow all those in our society who are ready, able, and willing to serve in the U.S. military to do so.