Obama signs "don’t ask, don’t tell" repeal bill

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Wednesday December 22, 2010

President Obama on Wednesday, Dec. 22, signed the bill that marks the end of the military's ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers.

Discharged Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva; Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.]; Congressman Patrick Murphy [D-Pa.], Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and U.S. Sens. Joseph Lieberman [I-Conn.] and Susan Collins [R-Maine] were among those who joined the commander-in-chief on stage during the signing ceremony at the Interior Department. LGBT activists and other members of Congress were also in attendance.

"This morning I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to "don't ask, don't tell," said Obama, highlighting gay World War II veteran Andy Lee who saved fellow soldier Lloyd Corwin during the Battle of the Bulge. "This law I am about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideas our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend. No longer will tens of thousands of men in uniform be asked to live a lie. Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well."

Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network applauded the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

"In signing this bill today, President Obama delivered on a defining civil rights measure for our country and for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members who have been silenced for far too long," he said. "Clearly, this is President Obama's Lyndon Johnson moment in history. A measure of dignity has been restored to thousands of service members on active duty, and to over a million gay veterans who served in silence. This historic moment is about those service members and their service."

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, echoed Sarvis' sentiments.

"Today gay and lesbian patriots serving their country in silence, and thousands more who wish to serve the country they love, can breathe a sigh of relief that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is on its way out," he said. "Soon, all service members will be able to serve with the full honesty and integrity the uniform demands. No more careers will come to an end because of an unjust law. 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' has weakened our military readiness and is now on its way to the dustbin of history."

The U.S. Senate voted 65-31 on Saturday, Dec. 18, to end the Clinton-era law. The measure survived an attempted Republican filibuster earlier in the day. And Collins was among the eight Senate Republicans, including Scott Brown [R-Mass.], Lisa Murkowski [R-Alaska] and Richard Burr [R-N.C.] who backed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

Even though the president has signed the bill into law, "don't ask, don't tell" remains in effect until 60 days after he, Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gibbs have officially certified it. "I have every confidence in the professionalism and patriotism of our servicemembers," said Obama, directly speaking to gay and lesbian servicemembers. "You will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.