For the first time in a very long time, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was discussed on the floor of the House of Representatives here in Washington, D.C. Last night, eight members of Congress joined Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania for a late night "special order" to shed some light on the need to repeal DADT and lift the ban that is hurting our military.
Rep. Murphy was first joined by Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota, a command Sergeant Major in the US Army, who served his country for 24 years. Rep. Walz spoke to the fact that sexual orientation as an issue is a fallacy, that DADT does not strengthen our military, nor does it reflect the values we hold dear as a nation. One by one, members stepped up to the podium. Rep. Capps and Woolsey from California spoke to the need of repealing DADT to build recruitment and retention. They addressed the need to keep repeal a priority and at the forefront of our conscience. Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado waved the newest issue of Joint Forces Quarterly to the cameras, extolling the sound research of Col. Om Prakash's article, "The Efficacy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Mr. Polis relayed a story of a soldier currently serving, wanting to know if DADT would be repealed. He said to the Congressman that if it is repealed he would re-enlist. However, if the law is not overturned, he could not keep serving under threat of being fired for simply being who he is as a person.
A number of personal stories were shared: Rep. Quigley of Illinois shared how DADT had affected both Lee Reinhardt and Second Lt. Sandy Tsao. Rep. Baldwin of Wisconsin took to the microphone and spoke of how she had met with Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, who is facing a discharge that grows ever more imminent. Perhaps one of the most poignant moments of the night came from Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine. She related the story of how a soldier, fighting in Iraq for our freedom and security, had found out that his partner had died back here in the U.S. Being gay, this brave warrior could not grieve for his loss, could not speak to his comrades or commanders about his pain for fear of being fired and sent home discharged. So he simply had to stay put, continue his mission and mourn silently. This is truly what this fight is about: To give our fighting men and women the opportunity to be themselves; to rejoice in times of happiness and grieve in times of tragedy; to be able to get the mission done safely and come home to their loved ones; to not have to lie about who they are and fear retribution.
SLDN thanks all the members of Congress who spoke out on the need for repeal last night. Your voices carry far and wide.