Today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and President Barack Obama certified repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Although repeal of DADT, the policy that banned gay service members from revealing their sexual orientation while serving in the U.S. military, was signed into law in December 2010, the military was required to examine its preparations for implementation of the repeal. That is, Obama, Mullen, and Panetta needed to confirm that they had considered the Comprehensive Review Working Group report and proposed plan of action.
Repeal will take effect officially 60 days from now, on September 20.
In the meantime, the certifications go back into the hands of the conservative-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee. The committees may hold further hearings about DADT and may call on witnesses who could seek to rally anti-gay support among conservatives.
Press statements and more after the break. You can download a copy of the certification form here [pdf].
Tom Carpenter wrote today on LGBTPOV that those committees may very well prolong DADT as a political circus. He writes:
Like what is going on with the debt ceiling debacle, this will be a great opportunity to play to the conservative base. It will be all a political show.
While today is clearly a time for us to celebrate certification and the impending repeal of DADT, as we used to say in the Marines, now is not the time to take our packs off. The road ahead is still filled with obstacles and mines.
Whether the 60-day waiting period turns into a circus or not, the HASC and SASC cannot easily overturn the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." They will, in effect, be able to make a political sideshow of the policy's slow death, but essentially, the certification today means that after 60 days, DADT is over.
Several key politicians and LGBT organizations responded to today's certifications:
- The President of the United States:
Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality. In accordance with the legislation that I signed into law last December, I have certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will end, once and for all, in 60 days--on September 20, 2011.
As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. Today's action follows extensive training of our military personnel and certification by Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen that our military is ready for repeal. As of September 20th, service members will no longer be forced to hide who they are in order to serve our country. Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.
I want to commend our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war. I want to thank all our men and women in uniform, including those who are gay or lesbian, for their professionalism and patriotism during this transition. Every American can be proud that our extraordinary troops and their families, like earlier generations that have adapted to other changes, will only grow stronger and remain the best fighting force in the world and a reflection of the values of justice and equality that the define us as Americans.
- The Palm Center:
"Today, U.S. military leaders set a new, global standard by saying to every military that still bans openly gay service that 'repeal is no big deal.' In doing so, our military leaders are confirming the lessons of the British and Australian forces: openly gay service is a non-event and military readiness is improved when service members are not forced to lie in order to serve their country. Given the size, strength and reach of the U.S. military, the global standard for military forces and for equality has been raised."
- Servicemembers United:
"Today, gay and lesbian servicemembers can and will breath a huge sigh of relief. While we still must wait 60 days for this change to formally take effect and for the law to officially be off the books, this step is nothing short of historic," said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army Human Intelligence Collector who was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." "This is the final nail in the coffin for the discriminatory, outdated, and harmful 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law. All servicemembers, the U.S. military, and the nation will be better off as a result of this long overdue change in policy."
Certification - a formal acknowledgement by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that military is ready for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law - was the last major political hurdle before the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal Act of 2010 could take effect. Now a 60-day waiting period will commence, at the end of which the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law will officially be repealed and off the books.
In 2010, a U.S. District Court judge found the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law to be unconstitutional in a lawsuit brought by the Log Cabin Republicans and in which Servicemembers United's Executive Director served as the sole named plaintiff. A subsequent worldwide injunction barred enforcement of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law against servicemembers by the Department of Defense. That injunction, which had previously been stayed for a period of time by the Ninth Circuit, has been partially back in effect as of July 15th.
- PFLAG National (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays):
"This is the end of government-supported discrimination against gay and lesbian service members who honorably serve their country and the beginning of a new chapter in our military history, one focused on the inclusion of everyone who nobly defends our nation and our responsibility to them when they come home. PFLAG National hopes that the Joining Forces program spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden will be inclusive of all military families and reflect programs and outreach that are responsive to our gay and lesbian service members, their spouses and families, and the unique issues that they often face," said PFLAG National Executive Director Jody M. Huckaby.
"It has been 212 days since the president signed the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', and there are still 60 days to wait before implementation begins. Beyond that, more waiting lies ahead, as legal partners and spouses of serving gays and lesbians will not receive any benefits or even recognition from the Department of Defense. Without that all-important U.S. military spouse identification card, these spouses and partners will have no medical coverage, no on-base housing and, perhaps most important, no survivor benefits or next-of-kin notification in case of death. Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is a significant victory, but an incomplete victory. DOMA must be repealed to ensure that serving gay or lesbian is truly equal to serving straight," said PFLAG National board member Col. Daniel Tepfer, USAF (ret.)
"This is a welcome step, and reflects what our members are saying, that the military is ready to move beyond 'DADT'," said "JD Smith," OutServe's active-duty co-director, who is identified by a pseudonym while "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is still in effect. "In 60 days, my life and the lives of thousands of other gay and lesbian troops changes. I cannot be more proud to be able to serve during this time."
"This day has been a long time in coming. Soon, we will see that gay and lesbian troops demonstrate the same professionalism that is the hallmark of our armed forces, and that all military personnel will prove more professional than some have given them credit for," added OutServe spokesperson and combat vet Jonathan Hopkins. "Through our work with the Pentagon, we are confident they have worked hard to devise smart policies as we move forward. As we move forward, what matters most is leadership."
- The Family Equality Council:
Since 1993, the controversial policy has effectively barred openly gay men and women from serving in the country's armed services.
Family Equality Council Executive Director Jennifer Chrisler called the repeal an important victory not only for servicemembers, but also for their families.
"For far too long, lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers have had to hide their families in the shadows for fear of losing their careers and their ability to provide for their children," said Chrisler. "With certification comes a new day for those 65,000 men and women who selflessly serve our country and for their families who make tremendous sacrifices everyday."
- The Human Rights Campaign:
"For far too long, the ban on openly gay service members has harmed our security and tarnished our values. The President's certification of repeal is a monumental step, not just for those forced to lie in order to serve, but for all Americans who believe in fairness and equality.
"There are many people who brought this historic day to fruition starting with the President's tremendous leadership and the steadfast allies in Congress who refused to give in to the lies and fear mongering. Additionally we thank all of the brave men and women who have continued to wear the uniform under a policy that forced them to hide who they are. The end of that shameful time is thankfully near."
- Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:
Service members today welcomed a key milestone in repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), as President Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, formally issued their certification to the Armed Services committees of both houses of Congress, signifying that the military is ready for the transition. In 60 days, as prescribed in the law passed by Congress and signed by the President last December, repeal will be final.
"The final countdown to repeal begins today. Service members celebrate this historic announcement, and they are ready for this change. Our nation's top military leaders have testified that commanders see no significant challenges ahead, and now the President, Secretary Panetta, and Chairman Mullen have certified to Congress that the armed forces are prepared for the end of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" said Army Veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis.
But Sarvis warned that the repeal of DADT is just one important milestone along the journey to achieving LGB equality in America's military, and he renewed the organization's call for the President to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Such an order would give LGBT service members recourse outside their chain of command if they are experiencing discrimination or harassment.
"Every service member deserves equal respect in the work environment. Signing legislation that allows for repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was necessary, but it is not sufficient for ensuring equality in the military. It's critical that gay and lesbian service members have the same avenues for recourse as their straight counterparts when it comes to harassment and discrimination," said Sarvis.
Sarvis said that SLDN will continue the fight for full equality for LGB troops who are serving today, as well as for those qualified Americans who wish to join.
"The work of advancing military equality marches forward after repeal. At SLDN, we will represent and defend those who may face harassment or discrimination as we oversee implementation; when necessary and timely, litigate in the courts to bring about full LGBT equality in America's military; advocate for legally married service members to receive the same benefits as their straight counterparts; and assist veterans to correct or upgrade their discharge paperwork," said Sarvis.
- National Stonewall Democrats:
Fulfilling a major campaign promise to the LGBT community, today President Obama signed the certification for Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal, which moves us to the final stage of the repeal process set out by Congress last year. 60 days from today, we will finally see the end to over 236 years of institutionalized discrimination.
DADT repeal was introduced, sponsored, championed, and passed through Congress by largely Democratic majorities and was signed by a Democratic president. This legislation would not have been possible under a Republican administration and certainly not from a Republican majority in Congress. Even as recently as two weeks ago, all but a handful of House Republicans were clamoring to defund DADT training for military chaplains.
National Stonewall Democrats PAC board member Terry Fleming, who served for 10 years in the US Navy, hailed today's news by thanking President Obama, Congress and the military brass for their leadership and courage.
"Most people take it for granted that you are straight and talking about your loved ones in the workplace is a common and everyday occurrence," continued Fleming. "For gay and lesbian service members, avoiding those discussions, or worse, changing genders when talking about one's spouse is difficult to say the least. I always felt like I was denying who I am and denying my partner's importance in my life. This denial corrosively harms relationships and destroys families.
"I join my fellow LGBT servicemen and women everywhere in celebrating the end of DADT."
- Senator Kristen Gillibrand:
"Today is a proud day for America and our Armed Services. Thousands of our brave men and women will no longer have to lie about who they are as they serve and fight for our nation. Putting this corrosive policy behind us will strengthen America both militarily and morally.
"Just as every American deserves the right to serve their country openly, honestly, and with integrity, every American deserves the right to marry the person they love and start a family. No politician should stand in their way.
"Now is the time for Congress to take the next step toward fairness and equality in America, and end the discrimination currently enshrined in our marriage laws by passing the Respect for Marriage Act."
- National Gay & Lesbian Task Force:
"Today marks the final critical strike against 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' a policy whose demise can't come fast enough. Eighteen years of witch hunts under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' have cost thousands of exemplary service members their careers, once again proving there are very personal and costly consequences of discrimination. People from every background, every faith, every community across the country know that qualified, patriotic Americans willing to risk their lives by serving in the military should be able to do so free from discrimination. They know our entire country benefits when fairness prevails, when service members no longer have to fear being targeted by their own government, when courageous men and women are able to serve openly and honestly. We again thank all those who fought for and supported an end to 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' - they truly are on the right side of history."
- The National Center for Lesbian Rights:
"This is historic. We are now living the very last moments of life under this shameful and stigmatizing policy that did nothing to advance the security or safety of this nation or any American. Many of our most able and dedicated servicemembers have suffered under an inexcusable policy of government-sanctioned discrimination. Today, they can feel some measure of solace that their sacrifice was not in vain. While more work lies ahead before all members of the LGBT community can openly serve, this is a true turning point that moves us closer to the day when our government fully lives up to the ideal of liberty and justice for all."
- People for the American Way:
President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen announced today that they have certified the repeal of the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which prevents gay and lesbian Americans from serving openly in the military. Congress repealed the ban in December, giving the Pentagon an open timetable for rolling back the policy. After today's certification, there will be a 60-day waiting period before repeal is fully implemented.
"This day has been a long time coming," said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. "Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, thousands of brave men and women have been forced out of the military or prevented from serving their country at all, simply because of who they are and who they love. That's not the kind of country the United States is.
"By repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Congress and the president have sent the powerful message to all young men and women growing up in the United States: if they are willing and able, their country will welcome their service and sacrifice. This repeal strengthens our military and strengthens the values at the foundation of our country. Gays and lesbians have always served honorably in our armed forces. Today's decision means that they'll finally be able to do so openly and honestly."
- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:
"Last December, this department began a careful and methodical process to prepare for the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
"Since then, the Repeal Implementation Team has worked to coordinate the necessary changes to policy and regulations, and to provide education and training to service members. This effort, led by Undersecretary of Defense Clifford R. Stanley, was designed to ensure the smoothest possible transition for the U.S. military to accommodate and implement this important and necessary change.
"Today, as a result of strong leadership and proactive education throughout the force, we can take the next step in this process. The President, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I have certified that the implementation of repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the armed forces. This certification decision was carefully made after receiving input from the service chiefs, service secretaries and from all the combatant commanders, who stated their views that the force is prepared for this change.
"With this certification, and in accordance with the law, on Sept. 20, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will be repealed. We will have taken the time necessary to get this done right and to ensure that service members are properly trained for a change that I believe is essential to the effectiveness of our all-volunteer force.
"All men and women who serve this nation in uniform -- no matter their race, color, creed, religion, or sexual orientation -- do so with great dignity, bravery, and dedication. As secretary of defense, I am committed to promoting an environment free from personal, social, or institutional barriers that prevent service members from rising to the highest level of responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant. They put their lives on the line for America, and that's what really matters. Thanks to the professionalism and leadership of the U.S. military, we are closer to achieving the goal that is at the foundation of America -- equality and dignity for all."
- Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
"I believe the U.S. armed forces are ready for the implementation of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I conveyed that opinion yesterday to the President and to the secretary of defense, and today we certified this to Congress.
"My opinion is informed by close consultation with the service chiefs and the combatant commanders over the course of six months of thorough preparation and assessment, to include the training of a substantial majority of our troops.
"I am comfortable that we have used the findings of the Comprehensive Review Working Group to mitigate areas of concern and that we have developed the policy and regulations necessary for implementation -- consistent with standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention.
"Certification does not mark the end of our work. Ready though we are, we owe it to ourselves and to the nation we defend to continue to train the remainder of the joint force, to monitor our performance as we do so, and to adjust policy where and when needed.
"My confidence in our ability to accomplish this work rests primarily on the fact that our people are capable, well-led and thoroughly professional. I have never served with finer men and women. They will, I am certain, carry out repeal and continue to serve this country with the same high standards and dignity that have defined the U.S. military throughout our history."
- Lambda Legal:
"After 17 years and more than 13,000 casualties, the end of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law is at last in sight. Congress has provided that that antigay law will automatically be repealed 60 days after the President's transmission of the certification to Congress. It is not long now until lesbian, bisexual and gay service members will finally be able to serve their country openly. The brave sacrifice made by these service members for our country deserves nothing less.
"Given that the military is the country's largest employer, the impending demise of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a critically important step toward ending sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. Lambda Legal's first lawsuit against discrimination in the military was brought in 1975 and we have represented many service members since then. We're proud to have battled antigay discrimination in the military and we congratulate our colleagues at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Log Cabin Republicans and everyone who has valiantly helped bring the freedom to be out to those who fight for freedom for all."
- Congressman Jared Polis:
"I applaud President Obama for certifying the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Our military will be stronger and our nation more secure because brave men and women who are gay will be able to serve without living in secret and talented service members won't find themselves discharged from the military just because of their sexual orientation.
"The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell is a landmark civil rights victory. With this victory, as with every civil rights advance, America becomes more true to its values and to the ideal that, not only are we all created equal, we are all equal in the eyes of the law. I express my gratitude to President Obama for his leadership and to my colleagues in Congress who voted to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell last December."
- Congressman Barney Frank:
"Given Leon Panetta's lifelong record of opposition to unfair discrimination, I knew when the President appointed him to be the Secretary of Defense that he would act promptly to implement last December's legislation to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
"I have a prediction: just as we have seen in those states where same-sex marriage has occurred with none of the negative consequences predicted, it will soon be clear that there was never any basis for this discriminatory policy in the first place other than prejudice, and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender servicemembers will soon demonstrate that there never was a good reason to keep them from serving our country."