“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Ends Today

Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, celebrated the historic end of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law today with the release of the following statement from its founder and Executive Director, Alexander Nicholson, who was himself honorably discharged early from the U.S. Army because of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

“On March 15, 1778 the first American servicemember was drummed out of the military for being gay. Since then, tens of thousands more have had their careers ruined and their lives turned upside down by a succession of anti-gay polices and regulations, culminating in the codification of an anti-gay statute in 1993 with the passage of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. In all, 14,346 men and women were discharged pursuant Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But thanks to the persistent hard work of unwavering advocates, especially those who have been directly impacted by this issue, and some courageous politicians over the past six years, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is now history. As a result, those who continue to serve can sleep easier tonight knowing that they can no longer be arbitrarily fired because of their sexual orientation. Justice has prevailed and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is dead. God bless America.”

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, which was uncompromisingly pushed forward by Servicemembers United and its allies, was finally passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in December of 2010. In July of 2011, the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted a certification to Congress that the military was ready to implement the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in accordance with the requirements of the Repeal Act. After that certification was submitted, a 60-day waiting period commenced before the Repeal Act finally could go into effect and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law could be stricken from the United States Code. That 60-day period ended today.

A grand total of at least 14,346 servicemembers were discharged pursuant to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the law’s nearly 18 years on the books. That final figure, attributable to Servicemembers United, combines the number of discharges reported by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which obtained the data from the Defense Manpower Data Center, combined with the number of discharges reported by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Guard Bureau for fiscal years 1994 through 2010. One additional discharge was reported by the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2011, which is also included in the above figure.

Servicemembers United, which has been engaged in extensive education, advocacy, and organizing work on behalf of the gay military, veteran, and defense community since 2005, will continue to grow its membership base and serve as the voice of this newly legitimized community in Washington and around the country in the post-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era. For more information about Servicemembers United and the gay military community, please visit our new home on the web at http://www.servicemembers.org.

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