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SLDN urges Obama to lead the way toward 2010 repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) launched a national campaign to draw attention to the opportunity President Obama has before him now to uphold his campaign promise to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” SLDN is pushing for the President to repeal the archaic 1993 law in his annual defense budget currently being drafted.

“There is no good reason why this White House would pass up this opportunity,” said Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN executive director. “It is the logical place to get rid of the discriminatory ban. We urge the President to make good on his words on the campaign trail as well as those said last October when he emphatically declared, ‘I will end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”

SLDN's call to action includes a full-page letter, “Mr. President, Lead the Way,” published today in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. The letter, penned by Sarvis, reminds the White House that “to delay [DADT repeal] another year is to stand aside and okay the daily firing of service members merely because they are gay. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is employment discrimination and there is no place for it anywhere in our government.”

The letter also notes the President cannot do this alone. “Congress must act too. If you [Mr. President] urge Congress and the American people to join you, we can win this battle. But if you do not include repeal in your defense budget, it will be tough to win repeal this year.”

SLDN is also energizing and mobilizing the hundreds of thousands of repeal supporters to call the White House switchboard to tell the President that now is the time for him to lead the way.

Attitudes toward qualified LGBT troops serving their country openly have changed dramatically in the 17 years since Congress passed the DADT law. Recent polls consistently show the American people, including a majority of conservatives (Gallup, 2009), are ready to see this law go. And younger generations of service members – who make up the bulk of the U.S. military – realize that job performance is not linked to sexual orientation, according to a Zogby poll.

Close to 190 members of the House of Representatives are cosponsors of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1283), the bill that repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and replaces it with a non-discrimination policy.

Last fall, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wrote to President Obama and Sec. of Defense Robert Gates asking them to bring to Congress their recommendations on DADT. "Your leadership in this matter .... is needed at this time," he wrote. And last November Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, indicated that repeal through the defense authorization bill was one option.

“Does the Administration have Herculean challenges it must deal with in the coming days and weeks, like the renewed threat of terrorism and job creation?” asked Sarvis. “You bet. Fortunately, they are focused like a laser on both. But writing repeal into the Administration’s defense budget can and must also be a priority. Firing qualified U.S. service members because they are gay must stop in 2010. If the President does not lead now, thousands of LGBT service members will likely serve in silence for another three years, and thousands more young service members will be discharged during the Obama presidency.”

The 65,000 gay and lesbian troops currently serving – including Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach – whom the President told face to face last summer, “We’ll get this done,” are waiting on the President to see if his actions match his words.