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Reaction: LGBT, equality advocates hail historic end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Reaction: LGBT, equality advocates hail historic end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

LGBT advocacy groups on Friday hailed the historic announcement by the White House that President Barack Obama has formally signed the certification that repeal 17-year-old ban on gays serving openly in the military.

As laid out in the legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President last December, the repeal will take effect in 60 days — on September 20, 2011, closing the chapter on a policy “that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality,” according to Obama, in today’s announcement.

Following is reaction from LGBT and equality advocates:

“This certification reflects the collective judgment of our military leadership that repealing the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy will not harm military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, or recruiting and retention.

It is a fact that gay and lesbian service members have fought and died for our country and are serving in our military now. But the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy requires them to conceal their sexual orientation so that they can continue their service to our nation. I agree with Admiral Mullen that this is an integrity issue. There is no way to justify a policy that requires our young men and women in uniform to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.

Sixty days from now, these service members will be able to serve openly, without living in constant fear of being outed and kicked out of the military. I applaud the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, secretary of defense, and the president for taking this step toward making our military stronger.”

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee

“Today is a proud day for America and our Armed Services. Thousands of our brave men and women will no longer have to lie about who they are as they serve and fight for our nation. Putting this corrosive policy behind us will strengthen America both militarily and morally.

“Just as every American deserves the right to serve their country openly, honestly, and with integrity, every American deserves the right to marry the person they love and start a family. No politician should stand in their way.

“Now is the time for Congress to take the next step toward fairness and equality in America, and end the discrimination currently enshrined in our marriage laws by passing the Respect for Marriage Act.”

“For far too long, the ban on openly gay service members has harmed our security and tarnished our values. The President’s certification of repeal is a monumental step, not just for those forced to lie in order to serve, but for all Americans who believe in fairness and equality.

“There are many people who brought this historic day to fruition starting with the President’s tremendous leadership and the steadfast allies in Congress who refused to give in to the lies and fear mongering. Additionally we thank all of the brave men and women who have continued to wear the uniform under a policy that forced them to hide who they are. The end of that shameful time is thankfully near.”

Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

“After 17 years and more than 13,000 casualties, the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law is at last in sight. Congress has provided that that antigay law will automatically be repealed 60 days after the President’s transmission of the certification to Congress. It is not long now until lesbian, bisexual and gay service members will finally be able to serve their country openly. The brave sacrifice made by these service members for our country deserves nothing less.”

Jon W. Davidson, Legal Director for Lambda Legal

“The final countdown to repeal begins today. Service members celebrate this historic announcement, and they are ready for this change. Our nation’s top military leaders have testified that commanders see no significant challenges ahead, and now the President, Secretary Panetta, and Chairman Mullen have certified to Congress that the armed forces are prepared for the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

Aubrey Sarvis, Army Veteran and Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN).

“This day has been a long time coming. Under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, thousands of brave men and women have been forced out of the military or prevented from serving their country at all, simply because of who they are and who they love. That’s not the kind of country the United States is.

“By repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Congress and the president have sent the powerful message to all young men and women growing up in the United States: if they are willing and able, their country will welcome their service and sacrifice. This repeal strengthens our military and strengthens the values at the foundation of our country. Gays and lesbians have always served honorably in our armed forces. Today’s decision means that they’ll finally be able to do so openly and honestly.”

Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way
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Obama, Pentagon certify repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — ban ends in 60 days

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