FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2009
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Resolution Calling For End to 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Passes Key Committee
Sacramento -- The California Senate's Veteran Affairs Committee endorsed a resolution calling for the immediate repeal of the discriminatory federal policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" today by a 4-1 vote. 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.
"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' hurts Americans who want to serve their country, and it hurts our country by keeping the best and brightest from serving," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "President Obama and our leaders in Congress must fulfill their promise to stand up for equality and overturn this policy now."
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was first authorized in 1994. Since that time, more than 13,000 service members have been discharged under the policy, including hundreds of service members 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, 149 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. Yesterday, 77 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama requesting he immediately suspend discharges under the discriminatory policy.
"To be a quality soldier you 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.
Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender-rights advocacy organization in California. In the past decade, EQCA 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. EQCA has passed over 50 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org