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Time To Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

This column was written by Aubrey Sarvis.

The Associated Press is the latest to report that there is no timeline within the Obama Administration to get rid of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, which bans openly gay people from serving in the military. Such stalling is a slap in the face to the estimated 65,000 gays and lesbians currently serving their country.

Why does repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" require a sense of urgency out of Washington? Because service members are fired every single day under the law. Not only is this blatant job discrimination, it is a matter of national security. We need to be recruiting and retaining all the qualified men and women we can find, particularly since we're engaged in two wars.

Some have called the debate over gays in the military "polarizing" and a "political minefield." These so-called analysts seem to be stuck in 1993, when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was indeed divisive, a political hot potato. Not anymore. More than 75 percent of Americans, including Republicans, want to the ban lifted. And if the senior military leadership in Washington would take the pulse of the younger generation-those who are serving and have served in America's 21st century wars--they would see attitudes have changed.

Admiral Mullen said Sunday on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopolous that he is approaching implementation of a new non-discrimination policy in a "very deliberate, measured way." We agree. This should be done right and done right the first time around. But this also means the President, and senior military leadership, should begin to outline a plan with a rough timeline for getting this done.

The creation of a national commission to study "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be tantamount to saying repeal is dead on arrival. Politicians all too often invoke national commissions as a way to ignore an issue indefinitely. Plus, the impact of open service has been studied to death. Every time a new study or report comes out, the conclusion is the same: Gays and lesbians serving openly do not negative impact unit cohesion, morale, or discipline.

We hope the President looks into the creation of a working group that has a specific mission: to determine what implementation would like look after Congress repeals the law. And this group would have 90-120 days to report back to the president with recommendations.

We can sit here all day long and discuss public policy and the inner workings of Washington, but what matters at the end of the day is the human cost. Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach served honorable for 18 years in the Air Force as an F-15E Aviator. He received eight air medals, one for Heroism, and was hand-picked to protect the Washington, D.C. airspace after 9/11. He flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, targeting the Taliban and Al Quaeda and was never a detriment to unit cohesion, morale, or good order. But he is about to get fired for being gay. There's something wrong with this picture.

Aubrey Sarvis is the Executive Director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
By Aubrey Sarvis
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