The United States military began accepting openly gay and lesbian recruits yesterday for the first time in its history. In observing the federal judge's order for the military to cease enforcing the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" (DADT) law, which was found to both violate the equal protection and First Amendment rights of service members, the military is strengthening itself while honoring core American values. The judges' ruling, while focused on constitutional rights, provides clear benefits for our national security. From recruitment to costs to readiness, America's top military leaders and national security experts agree that DADT has hurt our military's strength. With support from young veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, this flawed policy's termination is overdue.
As a pro-forma matter, the Justice Department is appealing the decision, but conservatives in Congress have gone much further and aggressively blocked the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act because it included language repealing DADT. This blatantly political move, which has prevented vital authorization for troops in the field and the Pentagon overall, harms our country's security precisely at the time that we need clarity in the Pentagon's personnel policy. Yet conservatives, who have fumbled the issue by comparing homosexuality to alcoholism and arguing that the military cannot handle this - try to score cheap political points on this issue on the campaign trail. Just as with other national security issues, conservative clearly have not put much thought into the issue and are happily sacrificing American values and security on the altar of political expediency.