Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a huge issue in this area since there are so many members of the military in the Hampton Roads area. I have both friends and clients who have been forced to leave the military under this wrong-headed, discriminatory policy. In conjunction with the 14th anniversary of the signing of the military policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, the Human Rights Campaign has asked the leading Democratic candidates for President to respond to the question, “If you are elected President, what concrete steps would you take to overturn ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?’” Starting Monday, November 26th and ending on Saturday, December 1, one statement from the Democratic presidential candidates will be posted each day on Back Story. So far, John Edwards' and Christopher Dodd's responses have been posted. I hope HRC puts the same question to the GOP candidates and puts them on the spot. Here are Edwards' and Dodd's responses:
John Edwards (D-NC):
“It is long past time to end the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy and to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the military. It is critical to our national security that we have the best people in our military. Gay men and women have continually served our country with honor and bravery, and we should honor their commitment and never turn away anyone who is willing to serve their country because of their sexual orientation. “This is an issue of fundamental fairness – and our military ought to treat everyone fairly. ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ did not become wrong. It was always wrong. Instead of fumbling when people question the morality of the 12,000 gays and lesbians who have unjustly lost military careers, we must repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT):
Tolerance, fairness and opportunity are fundamental American values. From my strong support for civil unions and work to fight to extend equal benefits and rights to same-sex couples, I believe we should all approach issues facing the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community as if they affected their own children and grandchildren – because it might.
That includes Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Right now we need to be encouraging, not discouraging as many good people as possible to serve in the military. And I believe excluding people from service based on their sexual orientation is counterproductive and does a great disservice to our men and women in uniform and our country. Heroes like Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, the first American wounded in the war in Iraq, should be treated like any other brave soldier who risks his or her life defending our nation.
That is why I believe the time to put an end to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has come – a change I called for some time ago. As President, I would call for a meeting with the Joints Chief of Staff to draw up plans that put an end to this policy within 6 months. I know some remain opposed to this idea – it was only a few months ago that General Peter Pace, then-chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, made comments regarding gays and lesbians serving in our military that I believed were completely out of line.
But Presidential leadership isn’t about taking the easy path – it’s about bringing people together to get results. For a quarter century, I have been turning Democratic principles into national policies. And ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will be one policy I insist upon. At a time of war, when we are having a hard enough time recruiting people—good people who could go on to serve our country honorably—that is the kind of leadership we need in the White House. With so much at stake, we simply cannot afford to spend another second or dime discriminating against anyone who wants to serve in our nation’s military.
Honor, integrity and the willingness to sacrifice ought to be the determining factors as to whether or not men and women can wear the uniform of the United States military – not sexual orientation. As Marine Staff Sgt. Alva knows, repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is an idea whose time has come. And with the right leadership in this election, it will.