Senator Boxer: Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I wanted to share with you a guest column that I recently wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle expressing my opinion that the Senate must act immediately to repeal the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The text of my column is printed below.
Now is the Time to Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer
In 2003, Air Force Major Margaret Witt, a decorated flight nurse, saved the life of a critically ill Defense Department civilian who collapsed during a commercial aircraft flight coming home from Seeb Air Base in Oman.
For her actions, Major Witt received the Air Force Commendation Medal. But, shockingly, she was later discharged from the Air Force because of the ill-advised “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. After a lengthy court battle, Major Witt last week learned that she will be able to rejoin our military.
“The men and women in the unit are like family members to me,” she said, “and I’ve been waiting a long time to rejoin them.” Major Witt and thousands of other brave service members have been waiting far too long.
The United States Senate has a historic opportunity right now to repeal the Pentagon’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy once and for all. Now that the Pentagon has completed its comprehensive review of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” we have a chance to move our country forward toward full equality – and we must not waste it.
According to a recent CNN poll, 78 percent of the American people think we should allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in our armed forces. The vast majority of our brave men and women in uniform believe this change will not hurt our military's effectiveness. When they were asked as part of the Pentagon's just-released review of "don't ask, don't tell," 70 percent of our service members said repealing this discriminatory policy would be positive, mixed or have no impact on their ability to do their jobs.
They understand that we cannot keep expelling stellar service men and women from the military for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to protect our nation. It harms our national security.
We know that U.S. service men and women are already fighting in Afghanistan alongside gays and lesbians who serve openly in the armed forces of our allies, such as Australia and the United Kingdom.
Not only does "don't ask, don't tell" hurt our military, it costs our nation.
At a time when our nation is confronting record deficits, American taxpayers have been forced to pay up to a half a billion dollars to replace the 13,000 service men and women discharged under this policy.
"Don't ask, don't tell" simply does not reflect who we are as Americans - which is why I have opposed the policy since it was proposed back in the 1990s. The strength of our military, just like the strength of our nation, is grounded in a fundamental belief that all people are created equal and deserve the same rights and opportunities. Denying someone the opportunity to serve our country because of who he or she may love runs counter to our values.
President Obama has said that he wants to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." The courts are increasingly striking down parts of the law. The House of Representatives has passed legislation to repeal it. And the Pentagon has extensively prepared to implement this change. As Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said, repealing "don't ask, don't tell" is simply "the right thing to do." All that remains is for the Senate to act.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer