Sarvis: We celebrate this day, but the fight for LGB equality in America’s military marches forward
(Washington, D.C.) Service members today welcomed a key milestone in repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), as President Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, formally issued their certification to the Armed Services committees of both houses of Congress, signifying that the military is ready for the transition. In 60 days, as prescribed in the law passed by Congress and signed by the President last December, repeal will be final.
“The final countdown to repeal begins today. Service members celebrate this historic announcement, and they are ready for this change. Our nation’s top military leaders have testified that commanders see no significant challenges ahead, and now the President, Secretary Panetta, and Chairman Mullen have certified to Congress that the armed forces are prepared for the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said Army Veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.
But Sarvis warned that the repeal of DADT is just one important milestone along the journey to achieving LGB equality in America’s military, and he renewed the organization’s call for the President to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Such an order would give LGBT service members recourse outside their chain of command if they are experiencing discrimination or harassment.
“Every service member deserves equal respect in the work environment. Signing legislation that allows for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was necessary, but it is not sufficient for ensuring equality in the military. It’s critical that gay and lesbian service members have the same avenues for recourse as their straight counterparts when it comes to harassment and discrimination,” said Sarvis.
Sarvis said that SLDN will continue the fight for full equality for LGB troops who are serving today, as well as for those qualified Americans who wish to join.
“The work of advancing military equality marches forward after repeal. At SLDN, we will represent and defend those who may face harassment or discrimination as we oversee implementation; when necessary and timely, litigate in the courts to bring about full LGBT equality in America’s military; advocate for legally married service members to receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts; and assist veterans to correct or upgrade their discharge paperwork,” said Sarvis.
STILL AT RISK: Despite the certification issued today, it is still unsafe for service members to come out until September 20, 2011, when repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will become final. Click here to read our warning to service members.
SLDN FREE HOTLINE: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: 202-328-3244 x100.
ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) was established in 1993 when “Don’t Ask” originally passed. In addition to working on repeal, SLDN offers free, confidential legal services to those impacted by the discriminatory law. We have received more than 11,000 calls for assistance to our legal hotline.
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