Letter to the House of Representatives opposing "don't ask, don't tell"
March 28, 2008
On behalf of the National Education Association’s (NEA) 3.2 million members, I convey our support for H.R. 1246, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, introduced by Representative Martin Meehan with 141 cosponsors. It would replace the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy concerning homosexuality in the armed forces with a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
This bill, an important step in addressing basic civil rights that reflects NEA’s long-standing commitment to eliminating discrimination of all kinds, fulfills America’s promise to judge people by their abilities and accomplishments, not characteristics such as skin color or sexual orientation. It is deplorable that prejudice and harassment continue to plague the many homosexual service members who serve our nation with great dignity and skill.
Some do not support “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a matter of principle, others because it makes no sense from a purely practical standpoint. A majority of Americans believed gay men and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military when the policy was enacted 15 years ago. That majority has grown from 52 percent in 1994 to 60 percent in 2006, according to polls conducted by the Pew Research Center — and to 79 percent in 2007, according to a poll conducted by CNN.
The more than 12,000 service members discharged for violations of “don’t ask, don’t tell” include hundreds with essential medical skills and dozens of desperately needed Arabic speakers. Their loss is America’s loss, undermining our nation’s armed forces even as they struggle to recruit men and women with the skills needed to prevail against terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots around the world.
The time to consign “don’t ask, don’t tell” to history has come. With this bill, America moves closer to making equality of opportunity a reality rather than just a cherished ideal — in the military as well as the civilian sphere.