Today President Barack Obama signs into law the repeal measure of the ban on allowing gays to serve openly in the military. In a historic vote on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010, the Senate repealed the 17 year-old Clinton-era policy known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ by a count of 65 to 31. This is a momentous day for our country and our military: the beginning of the end of a blatantly discriminatory law that for years has forced honorable gay men and women to live a lie.
The repeal means gays will be allowed to serve openly in the military and can acknowledge their sexual orientation with out fear of fired and discharged.
Under the 1993 law, more than 13,500 service members have been forced out of the military. Prior to 1993, gays had been specifically barred from serving in the military since World War I.
Dr. Aaron Belkin, PhD, director of the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara — a think tank on the issue — said the vote “ushers in a new era in which the largest employer in the United States treats gays and lesbians like human beings.” He continued:
“For thousands of years one of the key markers for first-class citizenship in any nation is the right to serve in the military, and Saturday’s vote is a historic step toward that.”
The change won’t take immediate effect, however. The legislation says the president and his top military leaders and advisers must certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt troops’ fighting ability. After that, there’s a 60-day waiting period for the military.
It is time to look beyond the challenges and to the opportunities. Senior military leadership will set the tone for the implementation and be responsible for articulating a clear message throughout the ranks about changes in the policy. My expectation is that few things will change in day-to-day operations. Service members will adapt easily and carry on with the mission. The most significant changes will be to personnel policies as the military will have to define requirements for the reinstatement of service members discharged involuntarily under the policy.
In a statement issued Sunday night and reported by the Wall Street Journal on Dec. 20, 2010 (Ending “Don’t Ask” Will Take Time), Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said, “As stated during my testimony before Congress in September and again during hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, the Marine Corps will step out smartly to faithfully implement this new policy.”
What matters about serving in the military are the: desire and ability to serve, willingness to learn, commitment to accomplish the mission, courage, and integrity. These attributes are independent of sexual orientation.
A recently concluded 10-month Pentagon study determined that 70% of those serving in the military believe the repeal of DADT will have little or no impact on military readiness. Various polls show that 80% of the country supported the repeal of DADT.
Now all who voluntarily serve and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country will not longer have to serve in silence. Our military and our Nation will be stronger.