NOTE: Kerry Eleveld finally interviews POTUS — just before she departs The Advocate – Obama: “Prepared to Implement


While there is elation at today’s signing, keep in mind this cautionary note from Aubrey Sarvis of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

“We need the media’s help to let troops know they remain at risk under the law even after the President signs the bill. The Pentagon just released new guidence that made clear “Don’t Ask” may still be the law for some time to come. We respectfully renew our call for Defense Secretary Robert Gates to use his authority to suspend all ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ investigations during this limbo period. Until the President signs the bill, until there is certification, and until the 60-day implementation period is over, no one should be investigated or discharged under this discriminatory law. Certification and the implementation period must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011. The bottom line: for now, gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members must remain cautiously closeted.”

The President would transmit to the congressional Armed Services Committees a written certification, signed by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating each of the following:

o (A) That the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the recommendations contained in the report and the report’s proposed plan of action.

o (B) That the Department of Defense has prepared the necessary policies and regulations to exercise the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f).

o (C) That the implementation of necessary policies and regulations pursuant to the discretion provided by the amendments made by subsection (f) is consistent with the standards of military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.

After the President transmits written certification to the congressional Armed Services Committees, full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would be effective 60 days later.

Now that we have that important information out there, below the fold are reactions to today’s signing…From SLDN:

PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS “DEFINING CIVIL RIGHTS MEASURE” ALLOWING FOR THE REPEAL OF “DON’T ASK”

“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. 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,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

“President Obama was decisive and forceful in steering the course as he brought along critical stakeholders, including the Defense Department. Now, it’s on to finishing the job at the Pentagon. Troops remain at risk under the law. We respectfully renew our call for Secretary Gates to use his authority to suspend all ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ investigations and discharges during this limbo period. Until there is certification and until the 60-day implementation period must be wrapped up no later than the first quarter of 2011.”

“This victory would not have been possible without several tenacious Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. In the Senate we saw remarkable determination by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Chairman Carl Levin and Senators Lieberman, Mark Udall, Gillibrand, Collins and so many others,” said Sarvis.

Servicemembers United:

“Today, an historic wrong was finally made right. Today, the long and painful struggle of one million LGBT veterans was finally vindicated. Today, sixty-six thousand gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans currently serving in uniform will sleep easier knowing that the odious ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law is a thing of the past,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former multi-lingual Army interrogator who was discharged under DADT. “While we now await certification and the transition regulations, we call upon the senior defense leadership to hasten the implementation of this policy change internally. The U.S. military will certainly be better off as a result.”

Founded in 2005, Servicemembers United has been a critical player in the movement to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Servicemembers United grew to become the grassroots and organizing arm of the repeal movement, organizing campaigns and events and doing extensive media around the country, especially in conservative areas, to put a human face on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Servicemembers United opened a full-time office in Washington, DC in early 2009 to give those actually impacted by the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law a seat at the political table and a role in the negotiations over the issue’s future. Servicemembers United also led the charge to compel the Senate Majority Leader to move the defense authorization bill, and later the stand-alone repeal bill, before the end of 2010.

Servicemembers United’s co-founder, Jarrod Chlapowski, organized and led the grassroots efforts of the Human Rights Campaign during 2009 and 2010, using Servicemembers United’s members to lend legitimacy to the lobbying effort on this defense policy issue. Servicemembers United’s Executive Director also served as the sole named veteran plaintiff on the lawsuit by the Log Cabin Republicans that got the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” lawsuit declared unconstitutional.

HRC:

Human Rights Campaign Statement on President Signing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Repeal into Law

WASHINGTON – Today President Obama signed legislation that will result in the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Following the signing ceremony, HRC President Joe Solmonese made the following statement:

“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. 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.”

“After 17 years of this failed and discriminatory law, a stain has been removed from our nation. This historic day would not be possible without the leadership of President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. In the U.S. House of Representatives, we are grateful to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Rep. Patrick Murphy for their dogged determination. And in the U.S. Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Sens. Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Kirsten Gillibrand and Mark Udall will go down in history as champions of this national security measure. Through their leadership, they have made our nation more secure and restored honesty and integrity as core values of our military.”

“It’s now incumbent on the president and the Pentagon to act expeditiously so that the final nail can be put in the coffin of this unjust and discriminatory law.”

Senator Mark Udall:

Udall Hails President’s Signing of Bipartisan Bill to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The U.S. Department of Defense is now tasked with implementing the new policy in an orderly manner that does not harm troop readiness, cohesion, recruitment or retention. Udall made the following statement:

“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I watched with pride today as the President signed his name on the law that will bring an end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ There is more work to do, and I will continue to exercise my oversight duties to ensure that the U.S. Department of the Defense implements the repeal in a way that doesn’t diminish the effectiveness of our military or the safety of our troops, especially as we continue to fight two wars. But in the meantime, Democrats and Republicans alike have sent a powerful message that never again will someone’s sexual orientation preclude them from protecting our great nation.”

The Task Force:

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director,

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“We celebrate this historic day, when our country has honored the principles of fairness and justice it holds so dearly. This is a tremendous victory. We thank all those who fought for and supported an end to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy – they truly are on the right side of history. Seventeen years of witch hunts under this policy have cost thousands of exemplary service members their careers, once again proving there are very personal and costly consequences of discrimination. This cannot end fast enough. Our entire country benefits when fairness prevails, when qualified and patriotic service members no longer have to fear being targeted by their own government, when courageous men and women are able to serve openly and honestly. We thank President Obama for signing this critical legislation and now call upon him as commander in chief, and his top military leaders, to swiftly lead us through to full implementation.”

ACLU:

Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“We commend both Congress and the president for making the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ a priority. Today is an historic step forward for those who have lived their lives in silence while serving our country and for all Americans who believe in fairness and equality.

“The reversal of this policy should serve as a message that discrimination has no place in our laws. The law now must be implemented by the Department of Defense to ensure that no more service members are unfairly discharged. The sooner the law is implemented, the sooner our gay and lesbian service members can begin serving their country with honesty and dignity.”

Center for American Progress:

Statement from Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress, on today’s signing into law of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010:

“History was made when President Barack Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 into law today. Very soon, the thousands of brave and patriotic gay men and women serving in the U.S. military will be able to serve openly and with integrity and honesty.

We thank President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen for their leadership on this issue, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) for championing repeal legislation in Congress.

With the bill signing today, gay Americans made a big step toward achieving full equality in the United States, our military was made stronger, and our nation became a more perfect union.”

Queers for Economic Justice (excerpt):

A Military Job Is Not Economic Justice: QEJ Statement on DADT

Queers for Economic Justice staff and constituents have all met people in the LGBT movement who have said to us that the DADT repeal is an economic justice victory, since many poor and working-class LGBT people join the military to have access to better jobs, and because the military is the nation’s largest employer, QEJ should be joining the in the victory dance.

But QEJ believes military service is not economic justice, and it is immoral that the military is the nation’s de facto jobs program for poor and working-class people. And since QEJ organizes LGBTQ homeless people in New York City, we wanted to remind the LGBT community and progressive anti-war allies that militarism and war profiteering do not serve the interests of LGBT people. Here’s how:

  1. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports that about one-third of all homeless people in the US are veterans, but about 1.5 million more veterans are at risk of homelessness “due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.” They also report that 56% of homeless veterans are Black or Latino.
  2. Some studies also show that one in four veterans becomes disabled as a result of physical violence or emotional trauma of war. There are currently 30,000 disabled veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. Rape and sexual violence are very common occurrences for women in the military, and the ACLU is currently suing the Pentagon to get the real numbers on reported incidences.
  4. Half of the US budget in 2009 was made up of military spending, including current expenditures, veterans benefits and the portion of the national debt caused by military costs, according to the War Resisters’ League. That is more than the US spent on Health & Human Services, Social Security Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Department Education combined. Wouldn’t more social safety net spending help the millions of queers who can barely make ends meet?

In short, military service is not economic justice.

DNC:

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine issued the following statement:

“Today is a great day not only for those service members affected by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and not only for our military, but for our country as a whole – because today, America reaffirmed the principles of equality and justice that define our nation. With the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ President Obama and our leaders in Congress made it clear that those principles are not limited on the basis of sexual orientation or of any other quality, but extend to all Americans without limitation. I congratulate President Obama for his successful effort to repeal this outdated policy, and I join with Americans across the country in celebrating the end of the discrimination it made possible.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties issued the following statement:

“Today is a proud moment for American democracy and for our nation’s commitment to the all-important concept of equal protection under the law.  For 17 years, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has been a terrible and discriminatory mistake, and a stain on our nation’s commitment to justice and equality.  It has taken 17 years to come to our senses.  And, of course, it will take longer for the nation as a whole to embrace the equality of LGBT Americans on a larger plane.  But this is a terrific victory today – for our proud armed forces, for LGBT Americans, for Americans who believe in our constitutionally protected rights, and, truly, for the very idea of American democracy.  Today provides vindication that, though we as a nation do stray from the path toward equal rights and tolerance, we have the will and the moral backbone to find our way back to justice.

“For 17 years, LGBT Americans have suffered needlessly because of a harmful and wrongheaded notion that they pose a threat to military cohesion and morale.  This untruth has been discredited and unmasked again and again, and will now finally be cast aside.  I congratulate my fellow Members of Congress, President Obama, Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, and, of course, the thousands of LGBT service members who can now serve their country in the open, without the taint of second class citizenship.”

Democratic National Committee LGBT Caucus:

Chair Rick Stafford released the following statement:

“On behalf of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus, I would like to thank President Obama and Congressional Democrats for moving to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ once and for all. By signing this bill, President Obama sent a message to Americans across the country and around the world that LGBT Americans are an important part of the fabric of our nation and there should not be any policy in place at the federal level that treats any American as a second class citizen. I am proud that after seventeen long years of this discriminatory policy, we can finally begin to acknowledge the rich contributions made by gay and lesbian service members and allow them to openly serve the country they love. Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, we are one step closer to the more perfect union we all hope to achieve.”

The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada:

“As a Vietnam era Air Force veteran, I found during my years of military service that most service members are quite indifferent to the sexual orientation of their fellow service members– and this was fully four decades ago. Based on my years of military service, the argument that repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could damage unit cohesion and military discipline is unfounded,” said David Parks, Nevada State Senator and Center Board Member. “Gays and lesbians have served in the militaries of the world since there were militaries and I expect that full implementation should be pro-forma and without disruption to the mission of the military.”

The bipartisan support of members of the Senate and House made repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” possible during this Congress. “With Senator Reid’s leadership in the Senate, and the unwavering support of Congresswoman Shelley Berkley and Congresswoman Dina Titus in the House, our gay and lesbian military members can now serve openly and proudly,” said Candice Nichols, Executive Director of The Center.

Log Cabin Republicans:

“It was an honor to witness the culmination of decades of work by servicemembers, their friends and allies in the fight for open service,” said Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper and an out combat veteran and officer in the United States Army Reserve.  ”Log Cabin Republicans are proud to have played our part in removing this shameful policy from the books.  ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal enjoyed an unprecedented level of Republican support for legislation protecting the freedoms of gay and lesbian Americans, and we look forward to building upon this progress in the future.  However, as long as servicemembers still face the threat of discharge, Log Cabin Republicans will continue our fight in court to protect the fundamental constitutional rights of our men and women in uniform.  President Obama today promised that implementation would move ‘swiftly,’ and Log Cabin plans to hold him to that promise.

“As implementation goes forward, as a Captain in the Army Reserve I am encouraged by the words of General Casey and Secretary McHugh of the Army, who released a statement regarding repeal directing soldiers to ‘stay focused on your mission.  Continue to treat your fellow Soldiers with dignity and respect, and maintain the standards of conduct and discipline that have made us who we are today-the best Army in the world.’”

“This is a shining day in American history, and the importance of this legislation should not be understated,” said Dan Woods, White & Case partner who is representing Log Cabin Republicans in Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America.  ”Unfortunately, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ remains in force at this time and will continue to harm gay and lesbian servicemembers until sixty days after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  As there is no set timeline for certification and the government remains legally able to discharge servicemembers for their sexual orientation, our case is alive and kicking until the promise signed today becomes a reality.”