SLDN Calls For Executive Order Banning Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

Posted on 12 Feb 2011 at 6:14am

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) released a press release of note yesterday, entitled SLDN Calls For Executive Order Banning Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity.

SLDN CALLS FOR EXECUTIVE ORDER BANNING DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 9, 2011

Paul DeMiglio: (202) 621-5408 or paul@sldn.org

SLDN CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO ISSUE EXECUTIVE ORDER BANNING DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY

Washington, D.C. — In a letter sent to the White House today, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) urged President Obama to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination in the armed forces based on sexual orientation and gender identity. SLDN recommends that the executive order go into effect on the date of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) repeal, which is 60 days after certification by the President, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen.

Thumbnail link to press release: SLDN Calls For Executive Order Banning Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity“Signing legislation that allows for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was a necessary first step, but it is not sufficient for ensuring equality in the military. We call upon the President to issue an executive order so that sexual orientation and gender identity are not barriers to applying for a job or advancing in your career,” said Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and executive director for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

The explicit anti-discrimination provision that was part of legislation to repeal DADT was dropped from the bill passed by Congress and signed into law by the President last December. An executive order is therefore needed to give service members recourse outside their chain of command if they are experiencing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Every service member deserves equal respect and a safe work environment. President Obama now has an opportunity to demonstrate the same leadership that President Truman did when he issued an executive order to end racial segregation in the military, and issue an executive order that protects all patriots regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The President recognizes that it will take more than just repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ to end discrimination against LGBT service members, and we couldn’t agree more,” Sarvis said.

To read the full text of the letter, click here.

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STILL AT RISK: Despite the President signing the bill authorizing repeal of DADT, it is still unsafe for service members to come out until 60 days after certification by President Obama, Secretary Gates, and Admiral Mullen. Warning to service members: www.SLDN.org/StillAtRisk

SLDN FREE HOTLINE: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: 202-328-3244 x100.

ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network was established in 1993 when “Don’t Ask” originally passed. In addition to working on repeal, SLDN offers free, confidential legal services to those impacted by the discriminatory law. Last year the organization received its 10,000th call for assistance to its legal hotline.

[The text of the SLDN's policy letter on LGBT antidiscrimination in the military services to President Obama is below the fold.]
The letter sent to President Obama from the SLDN — signed by their executive director Aubrey Sarvis:

February 9, 2011

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

Last month, you signed legislation that provided for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. This was a major accomplishment for the United States military, for gay and lesbian Americans, and for your Administration and the United States Congress. We look forward to the certification by you, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff that will bring this unwise and discriminatory law to an end.

Thumbnail link: SLDN's policy letter on LGBT antidiscrimination in the military services to President Obama, dated February 9, 2011But you have recognized that repeal of this law, while necessary, is not sufficient. You said, “The eradication of this policy will require more than just eliminating one statute. It will require the implementation of anti-harassment policies and protocols for dealing with abusive or discriminatory behavior as we transition our armed forces away from a policy of discrimination.” With this, we completely agree.

And yet, recent statements by some leaders in the Department of Defense indicate that they see no need for such policies and protocols — that business as usual is enough. With this, we do not agree. A mechanism should be put in place so that service members have a place to turn, independent of their chain of command, if they are subject to discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Being able to apply for a job and advance in one’s career, free from discrimination, is not, as some have termed, a “special right”. And a workplace free from discrimination does not happen just because our leadership says it must.

We, therefore, call on you to show the leadership President Truman did when he issued an Executive Order banning racial discrimination in the armed services and to issue an Executive Order prohibiting discrimination in the armed services based on sexual orientation and gender identity to be effective on the date of repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Bills introduced in the past three Congresses that included an explicit anti-discrimination provision to accompany “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal attracted hundreds of co-sponsors, but this language was dropped from the bill that passed last year. Your Executive Order can ensure that the military adopts the necessary nondiscrimination policies coincident with repeal of the discriminatory law.

Sincerely,

Aubrey Sarvis

Executive Director

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

What the inclusion of gender identity in the SLDN’s messaging means is unclear to me. Perhaps we’ll find out in coming days.

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