A veteran Democratic member of the US House of Representatives has said he is “deeply disappointed” in President Obama’s failure to deal with the legal ban on gays in the military.
Congressman Alcee Hastings wrote to the President yesterday.
“On June 22, I sent you a letter signed by 77 Members of Congress urging you to take leadership in working together with Congress to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and to replace it with a policy of inclusion and non-discrimination,” he wrote.
“More than two months later, I have yet to receive an official response.
“I am deeply disappointed that you have not responded to my letter and that we are not addressing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell at this time.
“With the recent addition of 17,000 American troops to Afghanistan and the possibility of another request for even more troops from General McChrystal in the coming weeks, I am sure that you will agree that we cannot afford to lose any of our dedicated, highly-qualified service members to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“As you know, we lose approximately two service members every day to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“While I commend (Defence) Secretary Gates and the Pentagon’s general counsel for their continued efforts to identify possible provisional measures, you can take action right now.
“I sincerely hope that your administration will make Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a priority and do everything in its power to repeal this ridiculous, bigoted law once and for all.”
Congressman Hastings, who has represented Florida’s 23rd district since 1993, added:
“Mr. President, I am extremely proud of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces and truly appreciate the countless sacrifices they continue to make every single day to protect this nation and the American people.
“They deserve better than Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
“Please know that I will continue to monitor this situation closely and stand ready to assist you and my colleagues in Congress in repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell today.”
The DADT law, mandating the discharge of openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual service members, came into force in 1993.
Under the law, at least one individual per day on average is fired because they are gay or lesbian.
Almost 13,000 service members have been discharged since 1994.
Military law experts have said that President Obama can end the dismissal of openly gay soldiers with just a single order.
Many commentators have drawn parallels with the fight for equal civil rights for blacks, suggesting that if the issue were to be dealt with today, immediate change would be preferable to incremental steps.
Gay rights activists and groups, such as the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network and the Human Rights Campaign, have said an executive order temporarily lifting the ban could be overturned by the next president and that Congress needs to act.