President Joe Biden on Monday recognized the tenth anniversary of the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy that required gay and lesbian servicemen to hide their sexuality.
Then-President Bill Clinton enacted the policy in 1993 as a compromise to end the current ban on gay service. In total, during the 17 years of the policy’s operation, around 13,000 military personnel have been demobilized, according to data provided by the military to the Associated Press.
In December 2010, then-President Barack Obama signed a repeal bill, but it did not come into effect until September 20, 2011.
“Ten years ago today, a great injustice was righted and enormous weight was finally lifted from the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated US servicemen,” Biden said in a White House statement. “It was the right thing to do. And it showed once again that America is at its best when we don’t lead by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”
Although approximately 13,000 servicemen were dismissed under a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ rubric, the total number of servicemen discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is estimated to be much higher: over 100,000 were reportedly forced to leave between World War II, when the United States first explicitly banned gay servicemen, and 2011, when “don’t ask, don’t tell” officially ended.
Biden said many of these veterans received what are known as “non-honorable” releases, which excluded “them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they so valued. sacrificed to win “.
“As a US Senator, I supported allowing the military to serve openly, and as Vice President, I was proud to champion the repeal of this policy and to stand with President Obama. as he signed the Don’t Ask Act, Don’t Tell Abeal Act into law, “the president said in a statement Monday.
Biden added that he was honored to be the Commander-in-Chief of “the most inclusive military in our country’s history,” which he says welcomes LGBTQ servicemen. He noted that, during his first week in office, he repealed the Trump administration’s ban on transgender members from enlisting and openly serving in the military.
He also said that under his administration the military is led by LGBTQ veterans. For example, in July, the Senate confirmed Gina Ortiz Jones as Air Force Under-Secretary, making her the first lesbian to serve as Under-Secretary in a military branch.
He also confirmed Shawn Skelly as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness, making her the first transgender person to hold the post and the highest trans defense official in US history.
Biden appointed Pete Buttigieg – who served as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve in Afghanistan under “Don’t ask, don’t tell” – as transport secretary, making him the first openly gay cabinet member confirmed by the Senate.
“On this day and every day, I am grateful to all of the LGBTQ + military and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation,” Biden said in the statement.
He added that the country must “honor their sacrifice” and continue to fight for full equality for LGBTQ people, including passing the Equality Act, which would provide the first federal protections against discrimination to LGBTQ people in the world. employment, housing, education, public housing. , credit and jury service, among other areas of life. The bill was passed by the House in April but has since stalled in the Senate.
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