Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher will succeed Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA) as the lead sponsor of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act when Meehan leaves the House of Representatives later this summer.

The legislation, originally introduced in 2005, would repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel.

Tauscher was an original co-sponsor of the legislation that is currently supported by a bi-partisan coalition of 127 lawmakers.

“Equality in our military is a vital part of equality in America. For too long the policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has prevented talented and otherwise qualified men and women from serving their country,” she said.

“It’s a discriminatory policy that runs counter to the most fundamental American values of patriotism and equality.

“And, in today’s threat environment, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is impacting the overall readiness and effectiveness of our Armed Forces.

“I’d also like to recognise the work of Congressman Marty Meehan, who has for years carried the torch on this issue and so many others in Congress.

“His leadership will be missed but his dedication will not be forgotten. We have got to continue his efforts to bring an end to this ridiculous policy.”

Congresswoman Tauscher is currently serving her sixth term representing California’s 10th Congressional district, which includes San Francisco’s suburbs in Contra Costa, Alameda and Solano Counties.

She is a recognised leader on defence, homeland security, high-tech, transportation and veterans’ issues and is known as one of Congress’s leading experts on nuclear non proliferation.

She is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, on which she is Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. She also serves on the Oversight and Investigations and Air and Land Subcommittees.

Tauscher has travelled to the Middle East five times since the start of the Iraq war, including three trips to Iraq, and has visited troops and met with foreign leaders in Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries while serving in Congress.

“Congresswoman Tauscher is a natural choice to continue the Congressional fight against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” said Sharra E. Greer, director of law and policy for Service members Legal Defence Network (SLDN).

“A respected voice on both issues of national security and equal opportunity, she has a long history of fighting to strengthen our armed forces and advance our nation’s promise of liberty and justice for all.

“Service members Legal Defence Network is honoured to work alongside Congresswoman Tauscher to end the unfair and un-American exclusion of lesbian, gay and bisexual patriots from our armed forces.”

Since its implementation in 1993, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has resulted in the dismissal of more than 11,000 men and women from the armed forces.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), nearly 800 of those dismissed had skills deemed ‘mission-critical’ by the Department of Defence, including more than 300 language specialists, of which 85 were proficient in Arabic.

The cost to U.S. taxpayers for maintaining the ban is estimated at more than $363 million.

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