(LOS ANGELES) As the Senate Armed Services Committee hears testimony today regarding the possible repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, the Courage Campaign and Lt. Dan Choi have now collected 458,039 letters of support from Americans calling for an immediate end to DADT.
The letters, gathered since May 2009, call on President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Army to end the policy quickly and expeditiously.
Despite the President's call for an end to the discriminatory military policy "this year" during last week's State of the Union Address, it is expected that Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen will not ask for an immediate legal end to the policy during the Armed Services Committee hearing.
"It is not enough for the President, the Pentagon and Congress to ponder change," said Rick Jacobs, Chair of the Courage Campaign. "While thousands of American soldiers continue to fear a military witch hunt, it is more important than ever that President Obama uses the power of his office to ensure 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is repealed this year, as he promised."
Jacobs continued, "The time for talk is over and the time for action is now. The President must lead. Poll after poll shows that a strong majority of the American public -- regardless of party identification -- supports repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' President Obama needs to tell Congress that he wants the policy ended now, not at some date in the future."
Since it was enacted in 1993, multiple research studies, including those performed by the Palm Center of the University of California, Santa Barbara, have demonstrated that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be repealed.
"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' contradicts the military honor code requiring those in uniform to tell the truth," said Lt. Dan Choi, a US Army Arabic language expert whose discharge is currently pending under the policy.
Lt. Choi continued, "By asking America's service members to lie, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' forces soldiers like me to break military code at the most fundamental level. The people in my unit do not have a problem serving alongside me and it's time for our leaders to catch up. Don't wait. Don't delay. We need a full repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' now."
Internationally, policies like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" continue to move to extinction.
In the years since the U.S. Military has instituted the ban, many nations have expanded their military service to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender service members, and in some cases, have extended benefits to their partners. Among those nations is Israel, whose military is among the most active and effective on the planet. Not only do LGBT soldiers in Israel daily face combat situations, but their partners and loved ones are cared just like family members of heterosexual soldiers.
The Courage Campaign continues to collect signatures in support of Lt. Choi and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."