Last week, our nation passed an important milestone – one year has passed since the official end of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. True to America’s cornerstone values of fairness and equality, the end of DADT marked yet another occasion in our country’s history where a fundamental wrong was recognized and a freer, more just and inclusive course was charted. Today, no American must hide or lie about who they are in order to defend our nation.
Enacted in 1993 as a compromise policy following failed attempts to end the ban on gays and lesbians from serving in the military, DADT was always wrong and un-American. During the nearly two decades DADT stood as law, more than 13,000 service members were discharged under the ban, including engineers, linguists and others with high demand specialties critical to our military’s mission. Not only was DADT discriminatory, but it undermined our military’s readiness and our nation’s security during a time of war.
For the past two decades, former servicemembers, civil rights organizations, and LGBT equality groups worked to overturn the DADT policy. In 2009, I joined 95 other lawmakers to put pressure on the Defense Department by requiring monthly reports of the number and cost of DADT-mandated discharges. More than one year later, the Senate held the first public hearing on the DADT policy. And on December 15, 2010, the repeal passed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama on December 22, 2010. Following a certification process, DADT officially ceased September 20, 2011.
When DADT was repealed, many in opposition predicted catastrophic damage to our military readiness and lamented that the achievement was a sad day for our nation. But a thorough analysis released this month by the Palm Center in California proved those fears to be unfounded and wrong, finding that “the repeal of DADT has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale.” The truth is that our military, just like our nation as a whole, is far stronger when each individual is valued and treated with dignity.
The end of DADT marked a moment of true progress for our nation, but we still have a ways to go before all servicemembers are treated equally. Gay and lesbian servicemembers are not provided with full military benefits and far too often face discriminatory treatment under U.S. law upon return from deployment. While our troops continue to promote our American values of equality and freedom abroad, let us recommit ourselves to promoting these same ideals to all our citizens at home.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.