Today, the State Assembly Judiciary Committee officially endorsed a resolution calling for the repeal of the discriminatory federal policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and introduced by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), the resolution calls on the United States Congress to pass and President Barack Obama to immediately sign the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2009, which would end the unfair policy and allow gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans to serve openly in the armed forces.
During the committee hearing, EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors was joined by two former service members, Zoe Dunning, retired US Navy Commander and Service Members Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Board Co-chair, and Joseph Rocha, retired US Navy Master at Arms, 3rd Class, as well as SLDN Board member Julian Chang and West Hollywood Councilmember Jeffrey Prang in supporting the resolution.
“We applaud our lawmakers for taking a stand for equality in the military,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “I am confident the state of California will soon join the growing chorus of current and former service members who have called for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ We urge President Obama and Congress to fulfill their promise to protect the rights of all Americans and to overturn this discriminatory policy immediately.”
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was first authorized in 1994. Since that time, more than 13,500 service members have been discharged under the policy, including more than 800 specialists serving in ‘critical operations,’ such as counterintelligence, medicine, and translation. According to a General Accounting Office report, 323 language specialists have been discharged, resulting in a critical shortage of qualified translators in intelligence gathering posts. Currently, 186 members of the U.S. House have signed on as co-sponsors to the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and replace it with a policy of non-discrimination across the armed forces. Last year, 77 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama requesting he immediately suspend discharges under the discriminatory policy.
“A soldier must display courage, patriotism, commitment and ability — none of which have anything to do with sexual orientation,” said Senator Kehoe. “Overturning this shameful policy will help ensure that gay and lesbian Americans will be afforded the same opportunities as any other American who wants to serve our country.”
More than 24 other nations currently allow gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals to serve openly in their militaries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, alongside whom American forces have served in combat. Recent public opinion polls show that a majority of both the American public and active service members believe the policy should be overturned and that gay and lesbian Americans should be allowed to serve openly in the military.
To find out more information about EQCA’s legislation, visit http://www.eqca.org/legislation.
Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender-rights advocacy organization in California. Over the past decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation. Equality California has passed over 60 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org ?