U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined with a coalition of United States Senators today to introduce legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and enhance our country's military effectiveness. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2010 contains three main provisions: it will repeal the law that prevents gay Americans from openly serving in the military, prohibit discrimination against current and prospective service members on the basis of sexual orientation, and promote the ability of college students who wish to serve our country to join Reserve Officer Training Corps units at universities that currently prevent the establishment of ROTC units on campus.
"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is an unjust and discriminatory measure that hampers our national security and violates the civil rights of some of the bravest, most heroic Americans," said Senator Gillibrand. "This policy is wrong for our national security and inconsistent with the moral foundation upon which our country was founded. When we repeal this policy -- and we will repeal this policy -- we will strengthen America - both militarily and morally."
The bill, cosponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Roland Burris (D-IL), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Al Franken (D-MN), incorporates the Pentagon Working Group that has been created at the direction of Defense Secretary Robert Gates to conduct a study and propose an implementation plan for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"The bottom line is that we have a volunteer military," said Senator Lieberman. "If Americans want to serve, they ought to have the right to be considered for that service regardless of characteristics such as race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Repealing the current policy will allow more patriotic Americans to defend our national security and live up to our nation's founding values of freedom and opportunity."
"I did not find the arguments used to justify "don't ask, don't tell' convincing when it took effect in 1993, and they are less so now," said Senator Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "This legislation will do what other armies have already done -- without having an adverse effect on good order and discipline or unit cohesion. Gays are serving successfully in our military right now -- this legislation would allow them to serve with integrity."
""You don't have to be straight to shoot straight.' Those were the words of Barry Goldwater, a combat veteran and unflinching advocate for national defense. And you certainly don't have to be straight to recognize who the enemy is," said Senator Udall. "This is an issue of military effectiveness. I have soldiers and airmen in my home state of Colorado who are being asked to serve five tours of duty or more. We need all the qualified service members we have to fight -- we shouldn't be dismissing them just because they're gay."
"For too long, gay and lesbian service members have been forced to conceal their sexual orientation in order to dutifully serve their country," said Senator Burris. "With this bill, we will end this discriminatory policy that grossly undermines the strength of our fighting men and women at home and abroad. This legislation will ensure that all gay and lesbian soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines can serve their country openly and proudly without the threat of prejudice or discharge."
"The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy never made sense. In the nearly two decades since it was begun, our military has lost the valuable services of too many patriotic Americans. The time has come to end this broken policy," said Senator Bingaman.
"I look forward to ending the discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell policy as soon as possible," said Senator Boxer. "We cannot afford to lose the service of dedicated and honorable military personnel, which is happening right now."
"Don't Ask Don't Tell was bad for our country and our national security when I voted against it 17 years ago, and I'm glad to be part of the team working to repeal it today," said Wyden. "Under this bill, the military can stop discharging qualified servicemembers because of who they love and instead focus its energy where it belongs -- on the nation's defense."
"This will help ensure that we have a defense force that reflects our commitment to the fundamental principles upon which the country was founded," said Senator Leahy. "We ask our troops to protect freedom in places around the globe. It is time to protect their basic freedoms and equal rights here at home."
"I am pleased to join my colleagues, the Commander-in-Chief and Pentagon leadership in working to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" said Senator Specter. "We must end discrimination against those who choose to proudly serve our country."
"The men and women who honor our nation by serving in the armed forces deserve our utmost respect and support," said Senator Merkley. "The very strongest fighting force demands that we recruit and retain those who have the skills and knowledge to fulfill their missions. Their private lives should have no bearing on their willingness or ability to serve. This legislation undoes an injustice that has kept far too many excellent Americans from wearing a military uniform."
"The time has come to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' It is the right thing to do. Every American should have the opportunity to serve their country, regardless of race, sex, creed, or sexual orientation," said Senator Feinstein. "The criteria for serving one's country should be competence, courage and willingness to serve. When we deny people the chance to serve because of their sexual orientation, we deprive them of their rights of citizenship, and we deprive our armed forces the service of willing and capable Americans."
"I've been on 7 USO tours -- 4 to Iraq and Afghanistan -- and I recently returned from a trip to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as Senator," said Senator Franken. "Over the years I've seen tremendous movement on this issue within the military. They're ready for it and we're ready for it. We need to end a policy that forces patriotic Americans to lie in order to defend their country."