Five more members of the House of Representatives have added their support to removing the ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel in the US Armed Forces.
136 Congressmen and women are now co-sponsors of The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which repeals the policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
The policy, introduced in 1994, states that LGB people can serve in the Armed Forces as long as they conceal their orientation.
President Bill Clinton had promised to open the military to openly gay and lesbian people during his successful 1992 campaign for President, but caved into pressure from the Army – the compromise was the current policy.
Earlier this year John Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US military from 1993 – 1997, called for a change in attitude towards gay and lesbian soldiers.
Conversations with gay service members “showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers,” the general said in January.
The five new Congressmen supporting a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” include Jesse Jackson Jnr. and Patrick J. Murphy, the only Iraq war veteran in the House and a former West Point professor.
“We are enormously proud to welcome these five lawmakers to the growing coalition of Congressional Members working to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN).
“This unfair and un-American law has cost our nation the skills of more than 11,000 patriotic service members, and Congress is increasingly recognising that our nation can ill afford to lose such talent.”
Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, the lead sponsor of Military Readiness Enhancement Act, said:
“With every new lawmaker who signs on we are one step closer to repealing this discriminatory policy that has been preventing otherwise qualified men and women from serving our country and contributing to the finest fighting force in the world.
“I thank all these new co-sponsors for standing up for what’s right, and I look forward to working with them to enlist more and more of our colleagues.”
Congressman Murphy is a former JAG Corps attorney, and served two deployments after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.
“Congressman Murphy, a respected voice on military matters and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, will be an irreplaceable ally in our work to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,”” said Sarvis.
“His support sends a strong message that those who know our armed forces best also understand that ending this law is the right thing to do for our military and our country”
Since 1993, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law has cost American taxpayers more than $364 million (£177m) according to SLDN.
An average of two service members are dismissed under the law every day.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), nearly 800 people with skills deemed ‘mission-critical’ by the Pentagon have been dismissed under the law, including more than 322 language experts, at least 58 of whom specialised in Arabic.
Experts have identified the shortage of Arabic linguists as a major factor in the US government’s failure to thwart the September 11th attacks.
The independent September 11th commission came to the same conclusion.
In July it emerged that the US military has been forced to rely on an untested translating machine.
US National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers are testing a prototype, real-time, two-way translation system to meet the shortfall of translators in Iraq, where linguistic misunderstandings can be fatal.
A poll of Americans released earlier this year revealed that nearly half do not support the current US military policy of barring openly gay people from serving.
The Harris Interactive survey, conducted in February, found that 55% of the 2,337 people questioned felt openly gay, bisexual or lesbian personnel should be allowed to serve.
Only 18% of respondents said that gay people should not be allowed to be in the Armed Forces at all.