Urge Republicans to Stop Blocking Vote on DADT

December 3, 2010

TAKE ACTION:
Please call and email both of your Senators, and urge them to move to a vote and repeal the military's unjust Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy prohibiting lesbians and gay men from serving openly in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Senate Republicans are holding hostage the Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill that contains a repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Even though 42 Republicans signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saying that they would not allow a vote to proceed until Democrats agree to extend the Bush-era tax breaks, there are a handful of senators who may be willing to break ranks.

We need thousands of email messages going to every single Republican member in the Senate; this vote must happen before the end of the lame-duck session. Please call or send an email message to both of your senators (Democrats and Republicans) urging that they allow the DOD bill to go to a floor vote and to vote for the bill. Use our message, or write one of your own. Calling senators' offices is always better, so if you can make those calls, please do so ASAP!

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BACKGROUND:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has informed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that Republicans would block all legislation until the Democrats agree to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy and make other concessions on the federal budget. Many Democrats have said they won't support extending tax cuts for the highest income earners, but will allow tax cuts for the middle class to continue. Republicans, of course, want their millionaire and billionaire friends to continue receiving the generous tax break that has cost the Treasury trillions of dollars and contributed hugely to the federal deficit.

Whether this is just a bluff on the part of Republican leaders or the real thing, we are not sure, but several important provisions are in the DOD authorization bill. In addition to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the bill also ends the harsh ban on providing abortions in military hospitals, which endangers the health of women serving overseas.

The Pentagon released its year-long review of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Nov. 30, concluding that a majority of service members would accept lifting the ban. Both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have endorsed the report's findings and are confident that the troops and their families are ready. Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't tell will not negatively affect military readiness, unit cohesion, unit effectiveness, or retention, they said, adding that repeal will make the military stronger by aligning it with its claimed values of honesty and integrity.

The House adopted the provision repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell by a vote of 234-194 in late May, followed the next day by passage of the DOD authorization bill. At the same time, the Senate Armed Services Committee adopted a DADT repeal identical to the House version, and included it in the Senate DOD authorization bill. However, a full vote on the Senate bill was delayed until after the November elections.

Numerous polls have shown wide support among the public for openly gay and lesbian individuals serving in the military. Moreover, according to a Quinnipiac University and USA Today/Gallup poll in 2009, a majority of Republicans, Independents, Democrats, conservatives, moderates, liberals and frequent churchgoers support open service.

Since Don't Ask, Don't Tell was adopted in 1994, more than 14,000 service members have been discharged under the policy. NOW is concerned that DADT has a disproportionate impact on women. According to the Service Women's Action Network, sexual harassment of military women frequently takes the form of "lesbian baiting." A clear indication of the disproportionately negative impact is the fact that, in 2008, 34 percent of service members discharged were women -- even though women constitute only 15 percent of military personnel.

DADT must go! Please call or email both of your senators, urging that a vote on the Defense Authorization bill proceed and that amendments that would remove or weaken the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal provision be opposed.


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