Senator Burris Commends Defense Secretary Gates for Actions to Curb ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–March 25, 2010.  Today, United States Senator Roland W. Burris praised Defense Secretary Robert Gates for his announcement of several measures to help stop the discharge of gay and lesbian service members from the military and to curtail the influence of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.

The actions announced today will make it more difficult to discharge gay and lesbian service members.  The measures include a provision that only officers with the rank of General or Admiral will be allowed to start investigations relating to allegations that service members have violated the ban against disclosing their homosexuality.  The new measures will also increase the standard of evidence required to both begin and conclude discharge proceedings in order to stop service members from being discharged as  a result of being involuntarily “outed” by a third party.

“The measures announced today by the Pentagon represents a major shift in thinking, and tangible progress toward the elimination of this discriminatory policy,” said Senator Burris. “For far too long, brave gay service men and women have had to conceal their sexual orientation in order to honorably serve their country.  The actions taken today will make it more difficult to discharge current gay and lesbian service members, and will lay important groundwork as my colleagues and I pursue legislation demanding a full repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

On March 3rd, Senator Burris joined Senators Lieberman (I-CT), Levin (D-MI), Gillibrand (D-NY), and Udall (D-CO) to introduce The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, a bill which will establish in the Armed Forces a policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation, and will repeal the military’s existing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.

This controversial policy, first established under President Clinton in 1993, bars any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation while serving in the military.  Since its enactment, nearly 14,000 service members have been discharged under the law and countless others have made the choice not to join the armed services because of the ban.