Statement By Elizabeth Birch On 10th Anniversary Of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

On November 26th, Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Elizabeth Birch
made the following statement on the 10th anniversary of the
discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue, Don't Harass"
policy, signed into law Nov. 30, 1993:

"President Bush told troops this week that we're a nation at war with
'terrorists who hate what we stand for: liberty, democracy, tolerance
and the rights and dignity of every person.' But today, American
soldiers are serving under a ban that tolerates only their silence.
Thousands upon thousands of courageous troops – who are serving in Iraq
and Afghanistan, who are in our National Guard, who patrol our coasts
and our skies, who can undoubtedly be found in every area of the armed
forces – aren't afforded the rights and dignity bestowed upon their
fellow soldiers simply because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual.

"As if the strains of serving one's country in war weren't enough, these
soldiers are operating under a code of silence that keeps their beloved
from being informed if they've been injured in combat. These soldiers
know that no matter how in need the military is of their service, they
will be discharged if their fellow soldiers find out they are gay. This
is no way to honor our nation's bravest who seek to serve our country
and protect our homeland.

"Fortunately, this anniversary also coincides with the 10th anniversary
of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network – an organization that has
spent enormous energy documenting the failure of this policy, providing
free legal aid to more than 5,000 service members hurt by the policy,
and advocating for anti-harassment training and an eventual repeal of
the ban. The Human Rights Campaign is grateful for their hard work and
proudly stands beside them in efforts to see that our troops are treated
with dignity and respect that these courageous soldiers deserve."

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