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Mai Shiozaki, 202-628-8669, ext. 116
NOW Hails Votes to End Discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy, Says Bill Does Not Go Far Enough -- Discharges Should End Immediately
WASHINGTON - May 28 - Yesterday the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to end the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that has barred lesbians and gay men from serving openly in the military.
"This has been a long time coming. More than 14,000 service members have had their careers cut short," said NOW President Terry O'Neill. "While NOW applauds the action taken by Congress, we believe that it does not go far enough."
The amendments to the Defense Authorization bill allow for a repeal, but only after the Defense Department has completed a study of implementation and its impact on troops. This study, already underway, is not due to Congress until Dec. 1, meaning the full repeal will probably not take effect until next year. The Washington Post reports that "Pentagon officials have said it could take several months after completing the study until they are prepared to fully integrate gays into the armed forces." Also still required are a vote on the amendment by the full Senate, final passage of the Defense Authorization bill, and certification by President Obama and military leaders.
"How many more service members will be discharged during this delay? How many will serve under the threat of possible exposure and expulsion?" asked O'Neill. "This issue does not need to be studied any longer. Extensive research has already been done. Other countries have taken the lead in welcoming openly lesbian and gay service members into their armed forces, and the results have been positive and productive. With equality on the line, the U.S. should stop the unnecessary delay and end the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy immediately."
O'Neill noted that Don't Ask, Don't Tell has a disproportionate impact on women in the military, according to the Service Women's Action Network. Sexual harassment of military women often takes the form of lesbian baiting; and in 2008, 34 percent of service members discharged were women, although women make up only 15 percent of military personnel.
"Every day that this unjust policy continues is another day of discrimination that leads to the military's loss of valuable service members and the needless disruption of their careers and lives," said Terry O'Neill.