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|July 28, 2009: Hastings Withdraws ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Amendment to DoD Appropriations Bill|
(Washington, DC) Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) made the following statement on the withdrawal of his amendment to H.R. 3326, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010. The Hastings amendment would have prohibited the use of funds to carry out the provisions in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell regarding investigating and separating soldiers who admit they are homosexual or bisexual. (Please find attached a copy of the amendment.)
“I introduced an amendment to H.R. 3326, now withdrawn, prohibiting the use of funds in this bill to investigate or discharge our dedicated service men and women on the grounds of ‘telling’ their sexual orientation. The Policy Concerning Homosexuality in the Armed Forces – commonly called ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – provides that a service member can be separated from the Armed Forces for stating that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual. Due to pressure from some of my Congressional colleagues and from the White House, I have withdrawn my amendment. I would, however, like to note that it is most unfortunate that we are not addressing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at this time. We should not be appropriating funds to enable qualified service members to be booted out just because they are honest about whom they are.
“I realize that this issue is considered controversial. But, it shouldn’t be. The vast majority of Americans not only support the inclusion of gay service members in the military, but also the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As many as 75 percent of Americans support openly gay service members in the military. This support commands undeniable majorities for men and women, liberals and conservatives, veterans and non-veterans, all age groups, and across the religious spectrum. It is far past time to eliminate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. While my amendment would not have repealed the law, withholding this funding would have made it that much easier.
“Americans recognize that forcing men and women out of the military on the basis of sexual orientation is not only blatantly discriminatory, but harms our national security and, indeed, runs counter to the values of our Armed Forces. We cannot afford to lose any more of our soldiers to the vagaries of outdated bigotry. Every day, we lose approximately two service members to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Our country is engaged in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military has spent over $95.1 million on retraining soldiers because of this law. What is the holdup, then? Last month, 76 of my colleagues and I sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take leadership on this issue and to work together with Congress to repeal this law. More than a month later, I have yet to receive an official response.
“I continue to hear the phrase, ‘next year, next year’ with regard to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That is absurd. This law is plain wrong. It is wrong now and it will be wrong then. How many more soldiers are we going to force to suffer through the humiliation of a so-called ‘investigation?’ How many more Arabic- and Farsi-speaking soldiers are we going to remove from duty, depriving our country of valuable, even life-saving intelligence? How many more combat veterans are we going to tell that we don’t need their experience because their sexual orientation somehow precludes them from serving their country? If we know we are going to repeal this law eventually, then why not take action right now?”
On June 22, Hastings and 76 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to suspend the investigation and discharge of service members in the Armed Forces because of their sexual orientation. Under the discriminatory law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” openly gay and lesbian service members and those suspected of “homosexual conduct” may not serve in the military. (Please find attached a copy of the letter.)
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings is Vice Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a senior member of the House Rules Committee, and Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.