Cantwell Hails Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement after the Senate voted 65-31 to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays in the military. The measure now goes to President Obama for his signature.

“The Senate did the right thing today in giving men and women who serve our country the ability to do so without fear of discrimination. This is a victory for U.S. service members across the country and around the world who for more than a decade have been subjected to unnecessary and arbitrary discharge from the military under the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. It is a victory for military readiness because it will enable our force to retain volunteers who serve honorably.
“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.
“Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has a long history of bipartisan support, and that bipartisanship was crucial today. The Senate was clearly swayed by a Pentagon survey of the uniformed services this fall that concluded repeal would not harm military readiness, morale or operations. This is a proud day for President Obama, for our military, and for the many in uniform and in civilian life who have fought to end this discriminatory policy. And it is a proud day for the Senate. Had Congress failed to act, the Pentagon would have been confronted by court rulings requiring immediate repeal of the policy. With final passage assured, our military can now proceed to an orderly implementation of the repeal.”