An Illinois congressional candidate announced this week that, if elected, she will join the fight to repeal the US government’s controversial ban on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender serving in the military.

Former Army Major Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic candidate for Illinois’s 6th Congressional District, expressed strong support for repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“When I was serving in Iraq, it made no difference to me what the sexual orientation of my comrades was,” she said in her statement.

“It certainly did not matter to me what the sexual orientation was of the men or women who helped save my life after my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down over Iraq.

Ms Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs during the war, is campaigning to fill the seat left vacant by the retirement of Congressman Henry Hyde.

“As a veteran of the US armed forces, I can speak from personal experience that our military’s performance depends on the skill of the men and women who volunteer to serve in defence of our nation,” she added.

“Any qualified American who is willing to make that kind of sacrifice for our freedom should be free to do so.”

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a bill to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is pending in the House of Representatives. The legislation, introduced by Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA), is supported by 118 other members, including both Republicans and Democrats.

“The majority of today’s junior enlisted personnel support gays serving openly in the armed forces, and a growing segment of Congress supports lifting the ban, too,” said C Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), in response to Duckworth’s announcement. “It is those who oppose open service who are out of step with the majority of Americans. We should honour all of those who serve our nation, and our nation suffers when we do not.”

Other veterans in Congress also support repeal of the ban on open service. Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, a Vietnam War veteran, recently told The Washington Post that “When this issue comes up, members who believe that gays shouldn’t be in the military are now more hesitant to voice their opinion. Many of us who feel the other way have come out of the closet, so to speak.”

Duckworth’s Republican opponent is Illinois State Senator Peter Roskam. SLDN requested a statement from Roskam’s campaign, but had received no response at press time.

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