By Rex Wockner
“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the military gay ban, will be fully and permanently dead on Sept. 20.
It already can’t be enforced against active-duty troops, courtesy of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But on July 22, military readiness to implement Congress’ repeal of the ban was certified by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta; Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and President Barack Obama, setting in motion a 60-day waiting period until the policy is history.
The certification confirms that the armed forces’ implementation of the repeal and the transition to open service will not affect “military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the armed forces,” Panetta said.
“The final countdown to repeal begins today,” said Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis, who urged Obama to now issue an executive order banning anti-gay discrimination and harassment in the military.
“Signing legislation that allows for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was necessary but it is not sufficient for ensuring equality in the military,” Sarvis said. “It’s critical that gay and lesbian service members have the same avenues for recourse as their straight counterparts when it comes to harassment and discrimination.”
SLDN also promised to advocate for legally married service members to receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts, and to assist veterans in correcting or upgrading discharge paperwork.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., an open lesbian, said people victimized by DADT now deserve an apology.
“I remember and honor the service of all the courageous lesbian and gay members of our armed forces who have been required to live a lie so that they can serve our country, or have been discharged because of who they are,” Baldwin said. “These patriotic Americans deserve our thanks and our apologies.”
President Obama issued this statement:
“Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality. In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will end, once and for all, in 60 days – on September 20, 2011.
“As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. Today’s action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal. As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.
“I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war. I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition. Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that define us as Americans.”
Panetta issued a statement which said, in part: “All men and women who serve this nation in uniform – no matter their race, color, creed, religion or sexual orientation – do so with great dignity, bravery and dedication. As secretary of defense, I am committed to promoting an environment free from personal, social or institutional barriers that prevent service members from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant. They put their lives on the line for America, and that’s what really matters. Thanks to the professionalism and leadership of the U.S. military, we are closer to achieving the goal that is at the foundation of America – equality and dignity for all.”
A statement from Mullen said: “Certification does not mark the end of our work. Ready though we are, we owe it to ourselves and to the nation we defend to continue to train the remainder of the joint force, to monitor our performance as we do so, and to adjust policy where and when needed. My confidence in our ability to accomplish this work rests primarily on the fact that our people are capable, well-led and thoroughly professional. I have never served with finer men and women. They will, I am certain, carry out repeal and continue to serve this country with the same high standards and dignity that have defined the U.S. military throughout our history.”