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SLDN applauds historic hearing: for first time, U.S. military brass support repeal

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee heard from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen on the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network's executive director, Aubrey Sarvis, issued the statement below.

“We strongly applaud Sec. Gates supporting the President's view that DADT needs to go. It's a matter of when and how, he said, not if. We also strongly applaud Chairman Mullen who unambiguously personally supported gays and lesbians serving openly. The top military brass of the United States just laid out a roadmap for full repeal.

“We also welcome the new direction coming out of the Pentagon over the next 45 days. The direction seems to be a focus on reducing DADT discharges and has adopted or is considering adopting six of SLDN's regulatory changes we provided the Department of Defense last summer.

“Top military officials also announced today they wanted to study the issue for a year or longer. Like Sen. Udall (D-Colo.), we think a one-year study is far too long and unnecessary and this process must have finality. SLDN would support a reasonable implementation and transition period if the Military Readiness Enhancement Act -- Rep. Patrick Murphy's legislation that repeals the law and replaces it with a policy of nondiscrimination -- was simultaneously moving through Congress this year and the President signed the bill into law this year.

“All studies, including the decisive 1993 RAND study commissioned by the defense department, that openly gay service members do not have an adverse impact on unit cohesion, recruitment, retention, or readiness. Service members will be fired almost daily while the study is going on.”

“Some during the hearing today tried to claim DADT is working and is successful. It hasn't been working for 16 years. Nearly a quarter of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say they know who is gay and who is not. This means gay and straight troops are talking about it. Having a law on the books that fires 300+ talented linguists and medics, at a time of two wars when all manpower is needed, is un-American, and practically speaking, makes no sense, not to mention the cost to the taxpayer of kicking out qualified men and women.

“SLDN renews our call for Congress to include repeal in the defense authorization bill, which continues to be drafted and will not be finalized until late spring. The overwhelming majority of the public, including 61 percent of weekly churchgoers according to Gallup, is with the President and the 187 members of the House of Representatives who have cosponsored Rep. Murphy’s bill.”