A California Democrat this week has called for repeal of the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law barring openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service.

Democratic Congressional candidate John Rinaldi, who served as a commissioned Navy Officer during Desert Storm, said legislation to repeal the ban “would bring our military’s policies in line with the will of the people and the needs of our national security.”

His opponent, who serves as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is a staunch supporter of the law.

“All citizens who have the ability, the sense of duty and the heart should have the right to serve their country, independent of race, religion, creed, gender or sexual orientation,” Mr Rinaldi said, “Our great nation’s military, and the people it protects, deserve nothing less.”

He endorsed the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a Congressional bill to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allow gay Americans the opportunity to serve openly. The bill is supported by 119 Members of Congress, including both Democrats and Republicans.

“Competency to serve in a time of peace, war, or natural disaster should be defined as ability to execute the duty charged to [service personnel]. And studies show that two-thirds of Americans believe American soldiers should be able to serve openly,” his statement continued.

Since 1993, more than 11,000 service members have been dismissed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), nearly 800 of those had skills deemed ‘mission-critical’ by the Department of Defence, including training in medicine, linguistics, combat engineering and as pilots.

“It is insulting to the intelligence and maturity of our soldiers to believe they wouldn’t choose to have more trained comrades to back them up over the assurance that someone is of a different race, religion, creed, gender or sexual orientation,” Mr Rinaldi added.

“Preventing eligible men and women from serving not because of their qualifications, but because others might be bothered by them, is hardly in the best interest of our nation’s security.”

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