TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
President Barack Obama has put his signature to certification of the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which means that the ban on openly gay and lesbian members of the U.S. military officially ends in 60 days, or on Sept. 20.
“Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law that undermines our military readiness and violates American principles of fairness and equality,” the president said today after signing the repeal certification, adding that he had indeed “certified and notified Congress that the requirements for repeal have been met.”
The president continued, “As Commander in Chief, I have always been confident that our dedicated men and women in uniform would transition to a new policy in an orderly manner that preserves unit cohesion, recruitment, retention and military effectiveness. … Our military will no longer be deprived of the talents and skills of patriotic Americans just because they happen to be gay or lesbian.”
Obama also praised “our civilian and military leadership for moving forward in the careful and deliberate manner that this change requires, especially with our nation at war.”
Word came last night that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Adm. Mike Mullen would be certifying the repeal today, but there had been no confirmation then that the president would also certify repeal today.
“The days of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ are quite literally numbered,” Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, said in a press release announcing that Obama had signed the certification. Murphy then went on to say that many other statutes that discriminate against LGBT people are still on the books, at the state and federal levels, and that the ACLU would “continue to seek justice” for gay and lesbian servicemembers discharged under DADT, and that the organization would continue to push for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal recognition to legally married same-sex couples.
“The countdown to repeal begins today!” Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network declared in a statement released by his organization. But Sarvis also warned gays and lesbians in the military that they are still at risk and that it is unsafe for them to come out until the ban is lifted in 60 days.
And Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and himself a former Army intelligence collector who was discharged under DADT, called certification of repeal “nothing short of historic,” adding that “gay and lesbian servicemembers can and will breathe a huge sigh of relief” now.
But even as many LGBT rights advocates were exulting over certification of repeal of DADT, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, earlier today issued a statement reminding advocates that the battle is not yet over: transgender and transsexual servicemembers still have to stay closeted or risk discharge.
“NCTE rejoices whenever discriminatory laws end, and ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a discriminatory law and it needed to go,” Keisling said. “However, as repeal is certified, transgender servicemembers continue serving in silence. NCTE looks forward to the day when the U.S. Armed Forces ends discrimination in all its forms,” Keisling said, adding a call for the Pentagon and the Obama administration to “address the gap” in DADT repeal.