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Sen. Nelson, We Salute You

For gay soldiers and advocates of equality everywhere, this morning’s hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee was a landmark in the fight to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The committee heard from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and other Defense Department officials on the Pentagon’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell study, which fully endorsed a repeal of the policy.  The report, released Tuesday, significantly builds momentum towards repealing the policy in the lame duck session.

Bold Nebraska would like to commend Sen. Ben Nelson for his moving remarks at the hearing this morning.  Nelson, who was a key vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee last Spring, made the following statements at the hearing:

“To me, the issue seems to be not whether to allow gays to serve in the military but whether to allow them to serve openly.  But permitting them to serve, but not openly, undermines the basic values of the military — honesty, integrity and trust, and when that’s undermined anywhere, it’s undermined everywhere.  It also seems that our military is expected to say, ‘I don’t want to lie, but you won’t let me tell the truth.’  How do we square this circle?  I think there are those who legitimately are concerned that this will adversely affect readiness and national security, and yet we have the report that seems to be somewhat overwhelming in certain areas saying that it’s time to change the law.  Can you help me understand how we move to something where it is now possible to tell the truth?”

Admiral Mullen replied that he could not justify a policy that asked soldiers to lie, something that goes against the integrity upon which the military is founded.

Sen. Nelson asked insightful, straightforward questions about a difficult issue while showing great respect for LGBT soldiers.  We thank him for his work towards creating an equitable policy that will allow all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation, to serve our country.

Following up on this great hearing, several groups throughout Nebraska sent the following letter to Senator Nelson to ask him to continue his work to repeal DADT, a policy that asks our men and women in uniform to resort to subterfuge to keep their jobs.  We hope Senator Johanns follows Senator Nelson’s lead on this issue.

Send Senator Johanns a tweet asking him to follow Senator Nelson’s lead on repealing DADT and then send a tweet thanking Senator Nelson for his work to honor our men and women serving our country with honor.

Just cut and paste this into Twitter: @mike_johanns, it’s time to repeal DADT, follow @senbennelson lead and listen to our military leaders http://boldnebraska.org/nelson-dadt

Here is the text of the letter we signed that was sent to Senator Nelson:

December 3, 2010

RE:  Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 3454)

Dear Senator Nelson: 

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we wanted to thank you for your continued support in repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. The current language in the Senate Armed Services Committee-approved version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides those service members who are lesbian, gay or bisexual the opportunity to serve our country with honesty and integrity.

Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy (Section 591)

Bill language repealing the discriminatory and unconstitutional DADT policy has already passed out of the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee. We thank you for your vote and your recent statements on integrity.  The language is consistent with President Obama’s repeated calls for repeal of the policy as well as the Pentagon’s ongoing review examining how best to implement it.

Earlier this week the Pentagon released a much anticipated report on the discriminatory and unconstitutional policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Most notably, the report found that a large majority of respondents to a survey of active-duty and reserve service members and their families say that ending the DADT policy barring lesbian and gay service members from serving openly would not have an adverse effect on military operations.

Key findings from the report, and particularly the survey of active-duty and reserve service members, include:

  • 70 percent of service members said they would be able to “work together to get the job done” with a gay service member in their immediate unit;
  • 69 percent said they worked in a unit with a coworker that they believed to be lesbian, gay or bisexual; and
  • 92 percent stated that their unit’s “ability to work together,” with a gay person was “very good, good or neither good nor poor.”

All of this further underscores the pressing need for Congress, particularly the Senate, to pass a repeal of DADT this year.

Since 1994, over 14,000 qualified and committed service members have been discharged under DADT simply on the basis of sexual orientation.  Several service men and women have shared their personal stories with you this past year.  The discrimination that DADT represents not only hurts the individual men and women whose military careers are brought to a sudden end, but also weakens the safety and security of other members of the armed forces and their shared mission.

At a time when service members willingly put their lives at risk to preserve our rights and freedom, it is deeply troubling that lesbian, gay and bisexual service members are forced to hide and deny their very selves.

The undersigned organizations appreciate your support and urge you in the strongest possible terms to vote to end DADT.  There is simply no excuse to further delay eliminating this discriminatory, unconstitutional policy.

Sincerely,

ACLU Nebraska

BOLD Nebraska

Citizens for Equal Protection (CFEP)

Nebraska Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers

PFLAG Central Nebraska

PFLAG Omaha

Pride Omaha

Progressive Omaha

UNL Nebraskans for Peace

UNL Progressive Student Coalition

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