Judy Shepard: Senate vote on gay military service honors our nation’s principles


Judy Shepard

Dennis and I and the Matthew Shepard Foundation join millions of Americans in and out of uniform today in applauding the United States Senate. It took truly principled action in finally ending the military’s obsolete and discriminatory ban on gay service members serving their country in the military.

Wearing our country’s uniform and serving its missions at home and abroad is and always has been one of the most honorable and patriotic callings.

It should have never been closed off to any Americans just because of their sexual orientation. A majority of Americans agree and it has frustrated so many of us for a long time.

Those of us who are passionate about living in a country where we are all truly equal have been frustrated and disappointed in our political leaders over this policy for far too long. We have watched with confusion and dismay in the last few years as we seemed to get closer, but never to the finish line, in the efforts toward repeal.

But progress was clearly being made, as the Senate vote showed Saturday. All of us who are allies for equality owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people today.

The hundreds of thousands of military personnel and family members who supported repeal of the ban in the Pentagon survey deserve our appreciation, as do their top officers who led the study.

The President, who was criticized for insisting that action come from the people’s elected representatives, and not through controversial and unilateral executive action or the courts, showed wisdom and patience as well.

The House of Representatives deserves praise for being so nimble in passing a stand-alone bill when the last measure failed in the Senate, too.

It’s also especially important that supporters of the ban being repealed thank the senators who cast the right vote.

Not only were the Democrats and independents nearly unanimous in voting for repeal, but several Republican Senators broke with the rest of their party to do the right thing as well. If you are represented by any of these people, please take a moment out of your weekend to send them a note of thanks. They will appreciate hearing from you, and it will help the next time that legislation affecting equality is on the line.

There is always more work to do.

Military members’ same-sex partners may still not receive the same support for relocation or survivors’ benefits, for instance, if marriage equality is not resolved in the future as well.

But allowing all of our people to serve without fear of prosecution, dishonorable discharge or persecution is a start toward living in the America we deserve to live in.

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