Military gay policy opposition grows

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As LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) advocacy groups increase their efforts to garner support against the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members, the list of Members of Congress in favour of a repeal continues to grow.

This week, US Representative. John Conyers (D-Mich) and Representtive Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) announced their support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a bill to repeal the law and allow gays to serve openly in the armed forces.

According to Servicememembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN), a bi-partisan coalition of 121 Members of Congress now supports the bill, introduced in March 2005 by Representative Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) and 56 other Members of Congress.

“Congress is increasingly aware of the detrimental impact the military’s ban has on both our national security and our civil liberties,” said former Army Captain Sharon Alexander, deputy director of policy for SLDN.

“Congressman Conyers and Congressman Pascrell understand that our military is stronger when we place qualification ahead of discrimination. There is nothing more patriotic than equal opportunity, and that is what we are fighting for on behalf of our lesbian, gay and bisexual service members. These brave men and women fight to protect our freedom and their freedom should be protected, too.”

Since 1993, more than 11,000 military personnel have been dismissed under “Don’t

Ask, Don’t Tell,” including more than 800 with skills deemed “mission-critical” by the Department of Defence. At the same time, recent news reports have indicated military leaders are issuing waivers to attract new recruits to the forces, including waivers for recruits with criminal backgrounds and those who do not meet education, physical fitness and other standards.

“Would you rather have a felon than a gay soldier?” Captain Scott Stanford, a National Guard commander of a headquarters company who returned from Iraq in June recently said in the New York Times. “I wouldn’t.”

Conyers and Pascrell both received a perfect 100 rating for LGBT supportive positions from the Human Rights Campaign in its scorecard for the 108th Congress, according to SLDN.

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