The Senate’s call to action on ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’

Last week, Federal District Court Judge Virginia Phillips, in Log Cabin Republicans v. the United States of America, ruled that ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ violates both the First and Fifth Amendments, noting the “deleterious” effect to national security, unit cohesion and military readiness. While this is a handy victory towards ending discrimination in our armed forces, this ruling should be the catalyst for Congress to clear the decks of this failed policy. In the coming days, the Senate must use this opportunity to assert its relevance on this issue of national security and pass the National Defense Authorization Act, striking ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ from law.

Far from a political gesture, Log Cabin Republicans will leverage this hard-fought victory in our three-front campaign against this bad law. We will continue to serve in consultation to the Department of Defense-authorized Hamm-Johnson Commission in their evaluation of how to implement “open service.” We will defend this ruling against whatever challenge the Obama Justice Department may bring, all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary. Log Cabin Republicans have worked with our allies in the Senate to ensure that there are the necessary votes for passage. We, and all who support repeal, will work to strengthen bipartisan support until Congress makes sure this policy is no longer law.

Some may see that closeting servicemembers and denying them free speech and free association—the insidious rubric of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’—is good for troop morale. As an Iraq combat veteran and a Captain in the United States Army Reserves, I can attest that this assertion could not be further from the truth. Beyond my experience, the evidence proves troop morale has only been hindered, as qualified men and women have been ferreted with inconsistent application and often personally motivated vendettas.

Opponents of open service argue that we should listen to the men and women who serve, banking on their purported intolerance. To the subject of listening to my comrades, I wholeheartedly agree. The Department of Defense’s extensive series of town halls, interviews and surveys demonstrate servicemembers’ resounding tolerance. It is safe to say that in all branches of the military, servicemembers and those who lead them recognize that their gay and lesbian colleagues are not a disruption, nor do they imperil unit function.

They are not alone, numerous polls register that as many as 80 percent of Americans support open service. It is clear that now is the time for Congress to listen to servicemembers, the courts, and its constituents and pass the National Defense Authorization Act ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

Cooper is executive director of Log Cabin Republicans and Liberty Education Forum. He was a diplomat in the Bush administration, a combat veteran of the Iraq campaign and is a Captain in the Army Reserve.