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Ending "don't ask, don't tell" policy will make the military stronger

Aubrey Sarvis [Executive Director, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network]: "The opposition by more than 100 retired flag officers to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) law is another indication of growing nationwide support to replace DADT with a nondiscrimination law that would allow all qualified service members to serve openly, regardless of sexual orientation. These retired generals and admirals know that DADT erodes our military readiness, is unjust and runs counter to the principles our armed forces fight for.

Three quarters of the American public (Washington Post-ABC News poll, July 10-13, 2008) oppose the ban and 149 members of Congress have signed as co-sponsors of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (MREA) to repeal the ban and replace it with a non-discrimination policy. In July, the first Congressional hearing on DADT in the fifteen years since its adoption was held with former and retired service members as witnesses who made compelling arguments against the ban. Captain Joan Darrah recounted how on 9/11 she had just left the Pentagon before the plane struck. Captain Darrah had not dared to list her partner on her emergency contact form; she wondered had she been killed, how her partner of 11 years might have learned of her death.

Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett (Ret.), who retired this year and signed the repeal statement, wrote in July, "...it is the responsibility of senior military commanders to advise our nation's leaders on how law and policy affect military readiness. I raised this issue in 2003 when a task force I served on worked on the Navy's diversity strategy. Senior leaders must state plainly how "don't ask, don't tell" affects recruiting, retention and our ability to develop essential military skills. They should speak up about how it affects military honor and integrity. It is our duty, something military leaders understand well, to speak openly of how "don't ask, don't tell" injures our military and weakens our preparedness."

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is working to build a solid foundation and develop consensus for open military service. The Defense Department's role is critical in this debate and we will work hard to secure their support and a favorable recommendation to Congress. It is important that we get it done right this time. With more hearings, and increasing support from our military's leaders, we can lift this ban - to the benefit of members of the military serving under DADT - and for our nation's security."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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