WASHINGTON — Tuesday marked the end of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, under which gays and lesbians could serve only if their sexual orientation was kept secret. Those who were openly gay or perceived to be were subject to dishonorable discharge.
Japanese American legislators welcomed the news.
Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose): “Today, nearly two decades after its enactment, our lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members can finally serve and defend the country that they love without the fear of being discharged. Never again will members of our military be forced to serve in the shadows, to lie about their identity, or to be afraid to talk about the people that they love.
“Let us remember the 14,000 loyal service members who were discharged under this discriminatory policy over the years, for now they can serve alongside their military friends and family with dignity and honor. Let us also remember those individuals who served in silence and sacrificed their lives so that we, as Americans, could live freely.
“As vice-chair of the LGBT Caucus in Congress, I see the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ as another step towards ensuring that all citizens, both inside and outside of the military, are never subject to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Today signifies a crucial milestone in history and is a victory not just for the LGBTQ community, but for America as a whole.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “Today is an important milestone for the American military, whose policies will finally allow gay men and women to serve openly in America’s armed forces. The formal repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy is also important in the history of civil rights in this country, and reaffirms the ideals of our nation. The United States of America is a country that champions equality and civil rights, and much like the Sacramento community, derives its strength from its diversity.
“I supported the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ because it was a necessary and overdue step for equality in America. For too long our military had discharged highly skilled service members simply on the basis that they were open and honest about their sexual orientation. An American’s desire to serve their country in the military should never be hindered by their gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Today, we are showing support for our armed forces and the LGBT community by finally eliminating the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, and further empowering the United States military to focus on their mission to protect the American people.”
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii): “Any American who has the drive and dedication to serve our country deserves that opportunity, regardless of their sexual orientation. Thousands of talented men and women were forced out of the Armed Services at a time when we needed them most, and an unknown number of others had to hide who they are to avoid punishment. Today is long overdue — this discriminatory policy does not reflect our country and our military’s values.
“To those who supported this unfortunate policy – we must move forward together. We cannot let the fears and prejudices of people distract us from being the great nation we are.”
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), a World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, also supported the repeal.