Statement of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney On Repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy in the U.S. Military
It is time to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t
Pursue”policy in the U.S. military once and for all. The study recently
released by the Pentagon confirms what so many of us have known all
along: there is no compelling state interest in barring lesbian, gay and
bisexual persons from serving openly in our armed forces.
From the initial introduction of this profoundly misguided policy in 1993, I have never wavered in my belief that our nation’s armed forces should not discriminate against otherwise qualified citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation – or their desire not to maintain such orientation under a stifling cloak of secrecy that encourages and even forces them to hide, or even worse, to lie about who they are. Today, at a time when our nation is engaged in a difficult military conflict in Afghanistan, the extent to which the so-called compromise “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”policy has damaged America’s military readiness has become even more apparent than it was seventeen years ago.
The policy against allowing lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members to serve openly has resulted in depriving our armed forces of the abilities, experience and dedication of thousands of qualified active duty personnel. This institutionalized discrimination is completely illogical and counter-productive as we grapple with an increasingly dangerous world wracked by the threat of international terrorism, with our servicemembers in harm’s way all over the world The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has documented the cost to our nation. In 2005, the GAO estimated the cost of discriminating against service members on the basis of their sexual orientation at nearly $200 million over the course of just the last decade. This estimate may, in fact, be too low, as the GAO itself acknowledged and as other studies conducted by reputable academic institutions like the Michael Palm Center at the University of California have documented.
Advocates for maintaining “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” continue stubbornly to cite elusive, unquantifiable factors to justify the policy’s inherent institutionalized discrimination. The most common argument is the specious insistence that “unit cohesion” among the armed forces will suffer if lesbians, gay men, and bisexual persons are allowed to serve openly – an argument that even Richard Cheney, while serving as the Secretary of Defense during the presidency of George H. W. Bush, acknowledged in congressional testimony was “a bit of an old chestnut.” Then-Secretary Cheney was right – and it’s high time we roasted that old chestnut on an open fire, and consigned it forever to the ashbin of history.
The fact is that many other nations – including trusted allies whose armed forces are respected around the world such as Great Britain, Israel, Australia, and Canada – have allowed their citizens to serve in their armed forces regardless of their disclosure of their sexual orientation. It is high time that the United States of America, which prides itself as a beacon of liberty and equality, joins their ranks.
I urge the members of this House to vote to repeal this misguided and counter-productive and un-American policy.