FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 13, 2010
CONTACT: Vaishalee Raja, Communications Director
PHONE: 916-284-9187 EMAIL: vaishalee AT eqca DOT org
California Legislature Urges Congress, President to Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
EQCA-sponsored resolution puts California Assembly on record in favor of repealing the discriminatory federal policy
Sacramento -- Today the State Assembly officially endorsed a resolution calling for the repeal of the discriminatory federal policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," (SJR-9) in a 51-17 vote that included bipartisan support. Introduced by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) and endorsed by the State Senate last year, 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.
"We are proud of our state's leadership for championing fairness and equality in the military," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "Those who are dedicated to serving our country should be free to do so regardless of their sexual orientation. The time to repeal this outdated, discriminatory policy is long overdue, and we urge Congress and President Obama to act immediately."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.
In a statement delivered on the Assembly floor, Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego) said, "I believe that any American who has these core values -- honor, courage, and commitment, and who is willing to give their life for their country should be allowed to serve openly and honorably."
At least 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.
The resolution now heads to the Senate for a concurrence vote.
To find out more information about EQCA's legislation, visit 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