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Virginia Military Women to Sen. Webb: Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Now that I’ve praised Defense Secretary Robert Gates, let me highlight an issue on which he’s taking a lot of heat from progressives. Gates has relaxed enforcement of the military’s ban on open gay service. But he’s also committed to finishing a Defense Department survey on military opinion about implementing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before he backs a timetable for repeal. The survey is due in December, meaning Gates’ timetable effectively precludes repealing the ban this year, as President Obama urged in his State of the Union address.

Some members of Congress don’t want to wait for the survey. They see an opportunity to introduce an amendment to the Defense authorization ordering repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” later this month, when the Senate Armed Services Committee marks up the bill. Advocates for repeal are focusing on six committee members: Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the Nelsons (D-Fla. and D-Neb.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).

Webb is a particular focus for the repeal effort. He’s a Marine veteran of Vietnam and served as Navy Secretary during the Reagan administration. Persuading him on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year would be a major step forward. So a coalition of Virginia military servicemembers has written to Webb urging him to “to stand on the right side of history” and the “side of integrity” by backing the repeal. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network sent me this letter, which I reproduce below:

The Honorable James Webb

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Webb:

We are military women who believe in having the strongest military possible. It is for that reason that we write to urge you to support the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law this year. For the sake of all of our men and women in uniform, the time for repeal is now.

Though we come from different backgrounds, we are all Virginians, we all served, and many of us studied at our nation’s service academies. But our common thread as women reminds us of the challenges we faced during the debate to allow our service in combat roles. Before that many of the same arguments were made against allowing African Americans to serve. Otherwise reasonable people believed that denying these groups of patriotic Americans the right to serve was in the best interest of the military. Now, we hear the very same arguments against allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly. Those arguments are as unfounded and misguided today as they were generations ago.

There is no evidence that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will harm unit cohesion, just as there was no evidence that allowing women and minorities to serve would do so. To the contrary, we have seen from our own experiences that it is dishonesty that hurts unit cohesion – not the sexual orientation of our brothers- and sisters-in-arms. Poll after poll shows that the attitudes of today’s service members have changed and they care more about whether their fellow service members do their jobs, not if they happen to be gay or lesbian. Further, the American public is with them – 75 percent support repealing DADT and allowing gays and lesbians to serve with integrity, openly and honestly.

We are counting on you, Senator Webb, to stand on the right side of history. Stand on the side of integrity and support legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year.

Sincerely,

Brenda Bailey, USN

Roanoke, VA

Cami Lewis, USA

Newport News, VA

CDR Claudia McKnight, USCG (Ret.)

Reston, VA

PFC Cynthia Mitchell, USA

Christiansburg, VA

CPT Deborah McKay, USN (Ret.)

Springfield, VA

SSG Genevieve Chase, USAR

Alexandria, VA

1LT Heather Lamb, USAF

Alexandria, VA

CW4 Janet Worsham, USAR (Ret.)

Richmond, VA

CPT Joan Darrah, USN (Ret.)

Alexandria, VA

SSG Kayla Williams, USA, 98G AD

Broadlands, VA

CMSgt. Kelly Egan, USAF

Alexandria, VA

LT Kelly Matteson, USN (Ret.)

Newport News, VA

PFC M. J. Flanagan, USMC

Portsmouth, VA

MAJ Marjorie Rudinsky, USA (Ret.)

Alexandria, VA

PVT Marty Porter, USMC

Virginia Beach, VA

CPT Megan Scanlon, USA

Williamsburg, VA

PVT Rebecca Smith, ANG

Roanoke, VA

SSG Robin Davis, USAF

Roanoke, VA

PFC Stephanie Marushia, USA (Ret.)

Virginia Beach, VA

CDR Susan Sharp, USN (Ret.)

Norfolk, VA

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