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Thursday, July 30, 2009

U.S. Senate to hold hearings on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, has secured a commitment from the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings this fall on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which bans openly gay soldiers from serving. Gillibrand had tried over the last several weeks to rally support behind a measure that would put an 18-month moratorium on the policy, but couldn't come up with the votes.

In the House, Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-PA, is leading the charge against the policy by sponsoring a bill that would overturn DADT.  Murphy, an Iraq War veteran, is getting major backing from the Human Rights Campaign and Stonewall Democrats. Georgia Congressmen John Lewis and Hank Johnson are co-sponsors of Murphy's bill. Here's Rep. Murphy discussing his support for repeal of DADT with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

Meanwhile, British newspaper The Independent is reporting that senior U.S. military officers are "quietly holding talks with their British counterparts" about how the U.S. should go about changing the policy.  The U.K. lifted their ban on gays in the military in 2000.

Chief Operations Officer of Stonewall Democrats, and Atlanta resident, Kyle Bailey spoke to Creative Loafing about the policy's effect on Georgia service members, as well as on those nationwide:

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is more than a failed policy that jeopardizes our national security; it causes unnecessary burdens on the lives of people who love their country, have sought only to serve their country and who have been willing to put their own lives on the line in defense of our nation. I have met people living in Georgia — young men and women — who have been removed from service under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Some of these Georgians have been forced to pay for their own medical operations resulting from combat injuries. Some have been forced to pay back the military for the cost of higher education promised them. But all of these brave men and women have had the courage to put themselves in harm's way in our defense and now the military is failing to live up to their end of the bargain. What's worse, President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress are stalling on the promises they made on the campaign trail to repeal this failed and harmful policy. We must hold the President and Congress accountable to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" right away.

Bailey also mentioned a joint event between the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Stonewall Democracy Fund taking place in Atlanta on Sept. 26 that will feature Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the first U.S. military service member wounded in the Iraq War and an outspoken advocate for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Alva lost a leg when he stepped on a land mine while leading his battalion to Basra.

Since President Obama took office in January, 323 service members have been discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Nearly 70 service members discharged in the last five years were much-sought-after Arab or Farsi linguists. Since the policy was instituted, nearly 13,000 LGBT service members have been discharged.

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