“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy Should be Eliminated, Says American Bar Association
The ABA has joined the ongoing discussion about repealing 10 U.S.C. §654, the statute commonly known as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” via letters to the U.S. Congress and Department of Defense.
The Congressional letters, signed by American Bar Association President Carolyn Lamm, say “we opposed enactment of this policy in 1993 as establishing a form of discrimination that was not based on the character of the servicemember’s contribution to the national defense. The harm we foresaw has since come to pass. More than 13,000 men and women have been dismissed from service under the law, among them highly trained specialists like pilots, sharpshooters and translators.”
Lamm notes that the association has a unique perspective on the law because its wide range of members includes retired and active duty military personnel, military law experts, civil rights leaders and gay and lesbian lawyers.
“While there is no fundamental right to serve in the military, there is no sufficient reason in our view to continue to deprive these men and women of the opportunity to serve their country and to deprive the nation of their talent and skill,” Lamm notes.
The letters to Congress conclude by offering any legal assistance needed in crafting a new policy.
The Department of Defense letter, also signed by Lamm, advises Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates that the ABA is commenting to Congress, and acknowledges “many collateral matters will have to be sorted out upon the implementation of repeal.” It notes that “we have not solicited the advice or support of active duty servicemembers out of respect for your position that it would be inappropriate for active duty officers to comment on the policy.”
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
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