Former President Jimmy Carter spoke out today about America's discriminatory "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy that forces gays and lesbians in the closet in order to serve in the military. The former President won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 and has spoken out before on behalf of LGBT civil rights.
In his statement issued through the Servicemember's Legal Defense Network (SLDN), Carter says:
"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.
"...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. 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."
In a prepared statement sent to bilerico.com, SDLN spokesperson Sharra E. Greer commented:
"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. 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."
While I applaud President Carter for his statement, I can't help but wonder when President Clinton will get around to saying, "I caved to the right. I was a new President, it was my first big campaign promise I wanted to deliver on, and I blew it. This whole thing sucks and we should change it." With his wife running for the top job now, I won't be holding my breath though - unless it'll help her campaign somehow.