'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repealed By A Lame Duck
The lame duck session of the 111th congress has produced at least one piece of legislation worth talking about - the repeal of the military's infamous 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. For 17 years DADThas banned gays from serving openly in the military. The Senate, on multiple occasions, failed in its attempt to repeal the wrongheaded policy. On Saturday 58 Democrats and eight Republicans finally succeeded in passing a repeal, with Washington state residents playing no small part.
Perhaps you remember only three small months ago Spokane native Major Margaret Witt, a respected officer discharged two years prior due to her sexual orientation, was ordered to be reinstated to her post by a Tacoma judge. The judge ruled that Major Witt's firing was unconstitutional, providing a legal precedent to remove the backwards policy.
Our state senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, hailed the decision as a major victory in the struggle for equal rights. Three months after that decision, the normally dysfunctional US Senate has proved itself to be, at times, helpful - ensuring equality for gay and lesbian members of the United States military.
Sen. Maria Cantwell had this to say:
On this great day, my thoughts go out to the many over the years who have suffered as a result of this policy, and who were early leaders in trying to change it. Among them are retired U.S. Army Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer of Whidbey Island and Air Force Major Margaret Witt of Spokane. Colonel Cammermeyer won a long battle for reinstatement after she disclosed her sexual orientation and was honorably discharged in 1992, before the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy had gone into effect. In June of 1994 a Seattle federal judge reinstated Cammermeyer, making her one of the few officially accepted openly gay or lesbian service members.
Major Witt was honorably discharged in 2007 from the Air Force under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ She sued to get her job back, and this past September a federal judge in Tacoma, Washington, in a landmark decision, ruled in her favor. That ruling called into question the official justifications for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and added momentum to our efforts here in Congress to repeal this policy. Today, with the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal clearing a key Senate hurdle, patriots such as Major Witt will no longer have to worry whether they can continue serving their country.
And Sen. Murray:
Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the right thing to do. It’s the right thing for our country. It’s the right thing for our military. It’s the right thing for Major Witt and the thousands like her. And…it’s the right thing for people like Rebekah, a young woman from Spokane, Washington who wrote me a letter just a few months ago…. Rebekah told me nothing would make her happier than to be able to graduate this spring and start her journey standing up for our nation. She doesn’t want to feel that she should be ashamed of who she is—and…she shouldn’t have to.” “We need to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ so that young women like Rebekah won’t stop dreaming of growing up to serve our country. And so that every man and woman in our armed forces can serve their country openly and with pride.
Well said. Meanwhile, the Senate is unable to pass a nuclear arms treaty or to approve an amnesty-like program that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Things are back to normal.
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