Former US President Jimmy Carter, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, has called on Congress to revisit the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel.

In an exclusive statement to Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN), Carter said: “It is my long-held belief that every human being deserves dignity and respect.

“I often heard that phrase during my years at the United States Naval Academy, I carried it out as Commander-in-Chief, and it continues to animate my human rights work around the globe today.

“The nation’s commitment to human rights requires that lawmakers revisit ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the current policy that prevents lesbians, gays and bisexuals from serving openly in our armed forces.”

Carter served as president from 1977 to 1981.

During his term of office, Carter oversaw the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

He received a bachelor of science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946. While in the Navy he became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant.

Chosen by Admiral Hyman Rickover for the nuclear submarine programme, he was assigned to Schenectady, N.Y., where he took graduate work at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics, and served as senior officer of the pre-commissioning crew of the Seawolf, America’s second nuclear submarine.

In 1982, he founded The Carter Centre, which addresses national and international issues of public policy.

“As someone who has served our country as a Naval Officer, Commander-in-Chief and one of the world’s pre-eminent human rights champions, there are few people more qualified to speak about this issue than President Carter,” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for SLDN.

“There is a growing understanding that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ isn’t just bad public policy, but is also a blight on our country’s commitment to human rights and equal opportunity.

“SLDN welcomes President Carter, the first Nobel laureate to call for an end to this unconscionable discrimination within our own government, to the coalition of those working to lift the ban.”

In his statement to SLDN, Carter says that “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the only law in America today that regulates a group of citizens then prohibits them from identifying themselves and speaking up on their own behalf.

“Gay soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are unable to tell their member of Congress or their commander that the policy is an abject failure and they are living proof because they will face discharge. Those who defend our liberties and freedoms deserve better.”

He goes on to say, “… there are great differences in public opinion on social issues today compared to twenty years ago. When I served as President, the majority in our country did not support equality for gay Americans, but that has now changed.

“The estimated 65,000 gay men and women who currently are serving our country honorably deserve respect,” Carter said.

“America has always been a beacon of hope for those who believe in human rights and individual dignity. The brave and dedicated men and women of our armed forces also must benefit from this fundamental ideal.”

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