As I pointed out in my very first post here at Bilerico, there are many reasons that LGBT Americans should care about the fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. Whether we are veterans or not, and whether we would ever consider serving or not, the U.S. armed forces hold an incredibly important key to progress for our community. History has shown - in the case of women and minorities - that when we can proudly (and openly) serve in our country's military, there is very little our country can deny us.
In fact, when lesbians and gays have been allowed to serve openly in the militaries of allied nations, LGBT rights have increased significantly. Civilian employment non-discrimination laws, federal recognition of same-sex unions and other rights and responsibilities have traditionally followed repeal of a country's military ban.
And those are just a few of the reasons why our community should come together on March 6 & 7 in Washington and call on Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network is inviting veterans, activists and advocates to convene in Washington about a month from now and press Congress to pass legislation allowing gay Americans to serve openly in our armed forces. Voices from across the country will meet with Members of Congress and urge them to support The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a Congressional repeal effort that now has the support of 142 lawmakers. Then, on Friday, March 7, those voices will come together in a rally on the Capitol lawn. Their message will be unmistakable: It is time to lift the ban.
Since its implementation in the mid-90s, nearly 12,000 men and women have been dismissed under the law. Even today, as the United States continues to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, two gay service personnel lose their jobs every day. And when our federal government not only sanctions - but mandates - that discriminatory treatment, it sends a not-so-subtle message to the rest of our country that treating LGBT Americans as 'less than' is somehow acceptable. That is why getting this law off the books is so important for everyone in our community. When "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is gone, we will have taken a giant step forward toward full equality.
The list of people who now support repeal reads like a 'who's who' list: General John Shalikashvili, the retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, the first woman to achieve that rank in the Army's history; General Wesley Clark, the retired NATO commander and former presidential candidate; and Brigadier General Pat Foote, one of the most respected women to have ever served in our armed forces.
It's important, though, that all of us add our own names to that list. There is strength in numbers, and we are closer than ever to repealing this un-fair and un-American law. The more voices who speak out in Washington on March 7, the faster we will cross this historic finish line.
So now is the time. Recruit your friends to come to Washington with you. Rally at the Capitol with your fellow activists. And repeal this law, once and for all.
For more information on why repeal is so important, click here. And to register to join SLDN in Washington this March, click here.