When you delivered your State of the Union address in January, you eloquently spoke the following words to Congress and the nation:
"We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it..."At the time, we seemed to be making progress. You committed to finally end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy once and for all, this year. Then in February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a congressional hearing that "we have received our orders from the Commander-in- Chief and we are moving out accordingly." Both announcements were heartening.
"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do."
However, as you know, Secretary Gates sent a letter to House Armed Services Chair Ike Skelton on April 30 which appears to indefinitely delay the possibility of moving forward with the repeal of DADT until the Pentagon completes a review of the policy.
In his response, Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said:
"As a result of the Commander in Chief's decision to defer to Secretary Gates' wishes and timeline, gay service members will continue to be treated as second class citizens, and any sense of fairness may well have been delayed for yet another year, perhaps for another decade."I share the concerns of Mr. Sarvis. And so do millions of Americans, as reflected in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showing 75% support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Americans clearly understand that if someone is brave enough to take a bullet for the USA, then they should have the same equal rights guaranteed to every American under the law -- whether they are serving in the military, or when they come home.
While I understand the need to research how repealing DADT will affect members of the military, the law can still be repealed with an implementation timeline this year.
The time to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is now. I urge you to take immediate action to insure that Congress includes the repeal of DADT -- with an implementation timeline -- in the Defense Authorization bill currently under consideration.
I am sharing this open letter with my friends in Democracy for America and the Courage Campaign communities, thousands of whom will join me in signing a petition asking you to take leadership to repeal DADT this year. You can read the petition -- and Americans can sign on to it -- here:
One of our nation's most precious and fundamental values is the guarantee of equal rights for every American.
Gay and lesbian Americans have demonstrated their courage and given their lives in service to our country since our nation's military was founded. Now it's time to allow them to say who they are.
On behalf of Courage Campaign and Democracy for America members, thank you for your consideration of this critical national security issue.
Gov. Howard Dean, MD
Founder, Democracy for America
P.S. On Tuesday, May 11, more than 300 military veterans will gather in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress to repeal DADT this year. If you haven't heard about this event, being organized by Servicemembers United and the Human Rights Campaign in partnership with a broad coalition of organizations including the Courage Campaign, please click the link below: