Repealing "Don't ask,don't tell" is the right choice

This morning, I was fortunate enough to join courageous servicemembers from Sanctuary Project Veterans who entered the DC office of Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) in combat boots bearing the names of LGBT servicemembers who have been discharged from the military or who have chosen not to reenlist because of DADT. Sn. Jose A. Rodriguez and Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, accompanied by gay Virginia resident and Webb constituent Michael Dixon, left the boots behind as a reminder of the lives on the line within the U.S. military as a direct result of this discriminatory law.

The groups chose to use combat boots as a vehicle for this message because, during his 2006 campaign for the United States Senate, Sen. Webb wore his son Jimmy's old pair of combat boots on the campaign trail every day. Sen. Webb said he wore the boots in tribute to his son and in tribute of "all the people sent into harm’s way" through war.

As Marine veteran Evelyn Thomas put it, "“As a Semper Fi,  former Marine, I’m here today to tell Sen. Webb that these combat boots I’ve worn in service to our country look just like his sons and everyone else’s combat boots serving in the United States Armed Forces.  In the line of duty, there are not differences because we are all Americans and we are all putting our lives on the line in service to our country.  Sen. Webb, your service to this country is appreciated and honored.  Next week, you have an opportunity to show me and my brothers and sisters that our service is equally appreciated and honored by you.”

The action on Friday at Sen. Webb's office was stirring -- and was truly what democracy looks like. As Joe, Evelyn, and Michael talked with Sen. Webb's staff there were few dry eyes in the hallway. While this law has become a legislative issue that politicos in DC are lobbying for and against, for many it is still a reminder that we are far from equal, and that the U.S. military is neglecting the safety of its all-volunteer force for the sake of an antiquated law.

Yesterday, GetEQUAL and H.E.R.O. interrupted a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing targeting Sen. John McCainJohn McCainTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Booker: 'I love you, Donald Trump' Syria activists cheer Kaine pick MORE (R-AZ) for his threats to filibuster the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" repeal legislation. They stood silently with images of people like George Wallace and Bull Connor, who stood in the way of past civil rights progress. They also held signs saying, "Sen. McCain, Repeal 'Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,' Do you want to be the next George Wallace?" and "Sen. McCain, Repeal 'Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,' It’s not too late to change your legacy."

It was clear throughout the SASC hearing that Sen. McCain was uncomfortable with this reminder that he is shaping his legacy with every move he makes. He has a clear to choice to make -- stand on the side of almost 80% of Americans who understand that keeping LGBT Americans out of the military is a ridiculous blast from the past, or stand on the side of George Wallace and Bull Connor, who are seen as obstructionist bigots in the eyes of history.

The past two days have seen a lot of courageous stands by LGBT Americans. We're hoping that the U.S. Senate shows half the courage of these folks and repeals "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" before the October recess.

Heather Cronk is the managing director of GetEQUAL.

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