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Congress pressures Pentagon on eve of gays-in-the-military debate

(SANTA BARBARA) Ninety-six members of Congress today sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates requesting all 2009 "don't ask, don't tell" discharge data, in an effort to ready their arguments for the impending 2010 debate on the gay ban.

Authored by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), a member of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, the letter was signed by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), lead sponsor of the bill to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."

Members are requesting up-to-date information on the number of service members discharged in 2009 under the Obama Administration, as well as information about their job specialties, years of service and branch in which they served. This request comes as supporters of the DADT repeal in Congress are collecting information to prepare for the upcoming House and Senate debate on the issue in 2010.

On December 2nd, Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) introduced legislation (which currently has 32 co-sponsors) to allow openly gay service members to testify in upcoming hearings without being discharged under "don't ask, don't tell." Hearings are expected in the Senate in January or February and in the House in March.

"It's clear that some in Washington are looking for ways to avoid discussing DADT in 2010,” said UC Santa Barbara professor, Aaron Belkin. Belkin is also the author of the 2003 book, Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Exploring the Debates on the Gay Ban in the U.S. Military.

“This letter from 96 Congressional offices keeps the pressure on the White House, Pentagon and Congress by illustrating the costs of discrimination with concrete data."

In 2001, there were 1,273 discharges under "don't ask, don't tell" and in 2008 there were 633, the third lowest number of discharges since the law took effect. The letter from Congressman Moran also requests that the Pentagon provide monthly updates on "don't ask, don't tell" discharges in 2010 to inform debates over repeal in the House and Senate.