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Groups respond to failed Senate vote on Don't Ask, Don't Tell
From News Releases, posted Dec. 9, 2010

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Statement by Servicemembers United

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Servicemembers United, the nation's largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans, issued the following statement regarding today's failed Senate cloture vote on the motion to proceed to debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, which also contains a provision to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law:

"This was a major failure on the part of the Senate to simply do its job and pass an annual defense authorization bill. Politics prevailed over responsibility today, and now more than one million American servicemembers, including tens of thousands of gay and lesbian troops, are worse off as a result," said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army interrogator who was discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." "Since the votes are there in isolation, the Senate should still consider a stand-alone bill to repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law before adjourning for the winter holidays."

Statement by The National Center for Lesbian Rights

( San Francisco, CA, December 9, 2010 ) -- Today, the U.S. Senate voted against a motion to begin debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a provision to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the 17-year-old federal policy that bars lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from serving openly in the military.

A statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

"It's shameful and appalling that a small clique of U.S. Senators was able to block efforts to end government sanctioned discrimination even as an overwhelming majority of Americans -- including the very service members who would serve side-by-side with lesbian and gay soldiers -- support ending this embarrassing and counter-productive chapter in our history.

"I am sickened by the message this sends to thousands of lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members and their families. This is a sad day in our nation's history. We call on President Obama to immediately end the disgraceful discharges of hardworking soldiers and refuse to further defend Don't Ask, Don't Tell in court.

"We also must hold elected officials responsible for their actions. Today's vote should be a wake-up call to every person who is committed to justice and fairness that we must do much more to elect public officials who support the most foundational principles of our nation."

Senate Blocks Repeals Of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" And Ban On Privately Funded Abortion On Military Bases

ACLU Calls Vote A Grave Disappointment

WASHINGTON— The Senate voted today to block consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act ( NDAA ) , a bill that included two key civil liberties provisions: repeal of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and repeal of the current ban on privately funded abortion care on military bases. The American Civil Liberties Union expressed deep disappointment that the bill including these repeals will not be considered for a vote.

Following the vote, however, Senator Joseph Lieberman ( I-CT ) announced he and Senator Susan Collins ( R-ME ) intend to introduce a stand-alone bill later today that would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The ACLU encourages the introduction of such legislation and urged the Senate to commit to passing the bill before the end of the legislative session.

"Congress has missed an historic opportunity to overturn these unjust and unfair policies," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Because of today's vote, policies that infringe upon our service members' constitutional rights will remain intact at a time when they are willingly putting their lives at risk to serve our country."

The current abortion policy bans servicewomen from using private funds to exercise their constitutional right to abortion except in the case of rape or incest. Additionally, servicewomen who are forced by the ban to seek proper medical care at civilian facilities are required to request a leave of military duty, which can only be granted after they disclose their private medical decisions to their superiors. The current ban means that servicewomen are denied the same reproductive rights as their civilian counterparts, who are guaranteed access to safe, legal abortion care.

"Our women in uniform are living under a different set of rules than other Americans when it comes to reproductive health care, and that is unacceptable. Congress, unfortunately, has just allowed that to continue," said Murphy. "All women have the right to safe reproductive health care and the women and families serving our country today deserve better."

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," passed into law in 1993, prevents gay and lesbian individuals from serving openly in the military. Since 1994, more than 14,000 qualified and committed service members, both men and women, have been fired under the policy simply on the basis of their sexual orientation. President Obama called for its repeal in his State of the Union address, the highest ranking members of the military have called for the policy to end and a report released last month by the Pentagon found that a large majority of respondents to a survey of active-duty and reserve service members and their families say that ending the policy would not have an adverse effect on military operations.

"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is unacceptable in a country where we value the equal treatment of all Americans. Gay and lesbian service members should not have to serve our country under the threat of being discharged simply for being who they are," said Murphy. "The ACLU remains fully committed to ending this unfair and unconstitutional policy and will continue to fight to ensure that our nation's service members are able to serve with honesty and integrity."

The ACLU of Washington represents Air Force Major Margaret Witt, who was ordered to be reinstated this fall after being dismissed under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Another recent court decision, currently on appeal, has found that this policy is unconstitutional.

SLDN calls for any viable option to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell before end of the year.

"We need to be on the bill that moves, period. We support Sen. Lieberman's plan to move a standalone bill. We also believe another viable option is the Continuing Resolution ( CR ) coming over from the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate and the President must remain in session and in Washington to find another path for repeal to get done in the lame-duck. We implore all who support repeal to join us outside the Senate tomorrow at noon', said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

SLDN statement

"Today a band of Senators voted to continue the discrimination against gay and lesbian service members who are fighting and dying for our country. This continued delay is an outrage against these service members and the more than 14,000 who have already lost their jobs under this discriminatory law. History will hold these senators accountable and so will many of their constituents. There will be no place for these Senators to hide. The Senate and the President must remain in session and in Washington to find another path for repeal to get done in the lame-duck. While difficult, realistic options still exist for advocates and Senators to move repeal this year. We need to keep pushing as the Senate is scheduled to break for holiday vacation. We implore all who support repeal to join us outside the Senate this Friday. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, 'If not now, when?', said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force denounces Senate vote blocking action on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal, calls it 'huge disgrace and disservice to our country'

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force strongly denounced the U.S. Senate's failure today to allow a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, blocking action on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

"The Senate's failure to allow a vote on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal is a huge disgrace and disservice to our country. Senators had an opportunity — and an obligation — to move toward ending an outdated, unnecessary and costly policy that discriminates against courageous and qualified people willing to risk their lives by serving in the military. How many more personal and painful stories of discrimination must these lawmakers hear before they act to end this harmful policy? How many more exhaustive Pentagon studies need to be done that affirm it's time to end the ban? Three-quarters of Americans say 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' should be repealed, as do top military leaders. People from every background, every faith, every community across the country know that qualified, patriotic Americans willing to risk their lives by serving in the military should be able to do so, free of discrimination.

"Despite today's obstructionism by a few politicians, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will end. We will continue to work to ensure all qualified Americans who wish to serve their country openly and freely are able to do so. We must, because the lives and livelihoods of thousands of dedicated service members hang in the balance."

Human Rights Campaign: Fate of lesbian & gay servicemembers in president's Hands, president must stop legal defense of DADT, issue stop-loss order

WASHINGTON - Today the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, called on President Obama to end the legal defense of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and to halt discharges of lesbian, gay and bisexual service members in the wake of news that the Senate will not finish the job on legislative repeal. As HRC President Joe Solmonese outlined in an October letter, the Administration should call "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" what it is - an unconstitutional and discriminatory law that hurts our national security - and cease its legal defense of the statute. Separately, the President needs to immediately use his powers as Commander in Chief to issue a stop-loss order halting discharges.

"The Senate's apparent refusal to act on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal makes Presidential action imperative in order for him to fulfill his state of the union promise," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "The only measure of success is an end to the discharges and anything less is unacceptable."

Under his powers to ensure national security following the September 11 attacks, the President has the ability to issue stop-loss orders preventing certain service members from discharge. Pending an enduring solution to this unjust and discriminatory law, the President can and should suspend DADT-related discharges under the stop-loss provision.

"In this time of war, we cannot sustain a policy that has already deprived our military of thousands of service members, many with critical skills in fighting terrorism," said Solmonese.

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law has also been embroiled in seemingly endless legal wrangling with the administration defending the law's constitutionality in court. HRC once again encourages the President to abandon that defense. Should the administration decide to proceed, the President can at least instruct government lawyers to inform the appellate court that the Executive Branch believes "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to be unconstitutional.

"Every day that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is in force, Americans are losing out on the best and brightest service members defending our country," added Solmonese. "If Congress won't act, it's up to the President to clean up the mess they made when they enacted this discriminatory and unconstitutional law nearly two decades ago."

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Statement by Palm Center Deputy Director Christopher Neff, Deputy Executive Director of the Palm Center

"The U.S. Senate vote today against proceeding to debate on the Defense bill was a vote against openly gay service. There is no legal or military rationale for the current law, only prejudice. It is now up to our civil leaders to consider every available legislative, executive and judicial option to move beyond 'don't ask, don't tell.' Today's vote leaves the United States alone in the western world in its ban of gay service. Our foreign peers remain Bulgaria, Jordan, Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates."

GetEQUAL's statement

WASHINGTON -- Today, GetEQUAL launched an email to its national community of supporters after a failed cloture vote in the Senate to bring up the National Defense Authorization Act ( NDAA ) , containing a provision to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Below is an excerpt from that email:

We all laid everything we could on the line for this bill -- a piece of legislation that would have repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." We all know that gay and lesbian Americans are just as patriotic and capable as straight Americans -- but dysfunctional Senate processes, a homophobic Republican Party, and a spineless Democratic Party got in the way of equality once again.

Let us be clear -- this wasn't the bill we wanted. This compromised piece of legislation was far from the ideal -- it would have left our transgender sisters and brothers behind, it kicked actual repeal to some undefined date later down the road, and it said nothing about how to deal with lesbian or gay enlistees who have partners who must remain second-class citizens because their lives are still ruled by the Defense of Marriage Act.

If we're ever going to fight back against these kinds of compromises, we've got to build a ground game that disallows anything less than full equality.

We're working on developing that ground game, and we'll have more to say about it in coming weeks.

For now, we mourn for the LGBT servicemembers serving each day in silence -- some of whom will lose their lives without ever tasting equality. We mourn for the lack of courage shown by our elected leaders to put an end to needless discrimination.

But we should remain inspired by the fight left in us. Go on Facebook. Go on Twitter. Get out into the streets. Call up your friends. Get angry, and then get organized.

This email follows months of requests to the President to issue an Executive Order that would institute a stop-loss order on all military discharges under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Following the House vote on the NDAA, GetEQUAL issued the press release below on May 28, 2010:

LGBT Change and The Civil Rights Agenda Fund: "We Will Continue Fighting for our Troops"

Thursday, December 9, 2010 — The U.S. Senate voted today not to proceed with the Defense Authorization Act containing language that would have repealed the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. "Today, 40 members of the U.S. Senate stood in the way of progress, allowing the U.S. to remain with Turkey as the only members of NATO to prohibit gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military," stated Jacob Meister, Chairman of the Civil Rights Agenda. "It is shameful that these members of the Senate have voted to allow the military to continue this discriminatory and backwards policy, even though more than 75% of the nation opposes the outdated 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. I urge President Obama and the U.S. Congress to continue to push forward so that the 65,000 gay and lesbian members of the military can serve their country, openly and honestly."

LGBT Change and The Civil Rights Agenda Fund worked aggressively over the last few weeks to encourage voters to reach out to their legislators. The organizations used social media and other outlets to organize and coordinate a calling program that encompassed 54,000 calls urging constituents to call Senator Kirk. During the calling process those calls caused the Senator's phone lines to be flooded with calls which caused their phone lines to go down. Additionally, the organizations created an online and media presence asking people to reach out to their Senators nationwide.

"This vote shows how broken the Senate is and how politicking comes before all else," Stated Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of The Civil Rights Agenda and Co-Executive Director of LGBT Change. "We will continue fighting hard to get repeal done. We will continue fighting for our troops and will not stop until this is done and our LGBTQ soldiers are able to be serve openly and honestly."

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