A bipartisan coalition of members of the U. S. House of Representatives issued a letter this week to President Obama, calling for a halt to investigations conducted under the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers.
The letter, spearheaded by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and signed by 76 other lawmakers, does not call for an executive order lifting the ban, but rather asks the president to demand that no new investigations are initiated and that military officials disregard tips given about one’s sexual orientation by other sources.
Included among the 77 signatories were local Reps. Joe Sestak (D-7th Dist.) and Chaka Fattah (D-2nd Dist.).
“I am pleased to join with my colleagues in Congress to call for an end to the wrong-headed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy that restricts patriotic gays and lesbians from military service,” Fattah said this week.
The lawmakers requested that Obama “exercise the maximum discretion legally possible in administering ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ until Congress repeals the law,” which they asserted would entail that Obama “impose that no one is asked and that you ignore, as the law requires, third parties who tell.”
The letter goes on to request that Obama then take a leadership role in the Congressional repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which has been in place since 1993, and work with Congress to replace the ban with a policy of “inclusion and nondiscrimination.”
“This bilateral strategy would allow our openly gay and lesbian servicemembers to continue serving our country and demonstrate our nation’s lasting commitment to justice and equality for all,” the letter stated.
The legislators urged Obama to take swift action, noting that “LGBT servicemembers and our country’s national security will continue to suffer if initial action is delayed until 2010 or 2011,” the letter said.
The correspondence detailed numerous other reasons for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” including the fact that more than 12,500 servicemembers, many of whom provide specialized services, have been dismissed since the policy’s inception, and about 250 have been discharged since Obama took office in January. The letter also states that the repeal of the law has widespread support among the general public, citing a May 2009 Gallup poll that found 69 percent of Americans thought “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be lifted.
Christopher Neff, political director at the Palm Center of the University of California, called the letter “gutsy,” saying the number of legislative supporters who signed on “sends a strong message that there is movement on this issue and that it doesn’t have to wait three years for a bill to pass Congress.”
In March, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which seeks to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the legislation was referred to the House Armed Services Committee. Several previous versions of this bill have died in committee.
The legislation currently has 147 cosponsors, including Sestak and Fattah, and other Pennsylvania U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-13th Dist.), Bob Brady (D-1st Dist.), Michael Doyle (D-14th Dist.) and Patrick Murphy (D-8th Dist.).