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HRC Honors Servicemembers Discharged Under ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

by Chrys Hudson
Thursday Nov 29, 2007

The Human Rights Campaign has partnered with the Servicemembers United (formerly Call to Duty), Log Cabin Republicans, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and Liberty Education Forum to host a three-day tribute, "12,000 Flags for 12,000 Patriots," to recognize the 12,000 men and women kicked out of the military since the signing of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The tribute kicks off on the National Mall on Friday, Nov. 30, the 14th anniversary of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" being signed into law, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 2.

"Every year thousands of highly skilled gay, lesbian, bisexual servicemembers are discharged simply because of who they are," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a release. "The vast majority of Americans, including the majority of servicemembers, support the right of gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers to serve openly and honestly. We must repeal this discriminatory policy and ensure that the U.S. Military can recruit and retain the best and the brightest troops regardless of their sexual orientation."

One flag will be placed on the Mall for every discharged service member-12,000 in all. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the flags will "stand as a testament to the waste to our military, our security and our country caused by this discriminatory law."

In addition to recognizing the 12,000 servicemembers discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the event will also serve as a reminder of the hundreds of thousands unrecognized GLBT Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives throughout our country's history to defend freedom.

On Monday, the Human Rights Campaign started posting statements from the leading Democratic presidential candidates in response to the question: "If you are elected President, what concrete steps would you take to overturn 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell?'" One statement per day will be posted on the HRC Back Story blog until Dec. 1 at www.hrcbackstory.org. The first statement was by former Sen. John Edwards. Statements from Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Barack Obama and Gov. Bill Richardson will also be posted.

The Human Rights Campaign also released a video on the costs of DADT and its impact on national security. To view the video, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=U923PfDFE18.

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (MREA), HR 1246, remedies this discriminatory and unworkable policy and replaces DADT with a policy of non-discrimination. The legislation was introduced in the 110th Congress this spring by Representative Marty Meehan (D-MA). Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) became the lead sponsor of MREA when Rep. Meehan retired. It currently has 137 cosponsors.

According to a recent Harris poll, 55 percent of Americans now support repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. A December 2006 Zogby poll of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 73 percent of soldiers reported being "comfortable ... in the presence of gays," and only 37 percent oppose repealing the policy. Many military officials, including Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton, now believe that gays should be allowed to serve openly.

For a schedule of the events taking place during the "12,000 Flags for 12,000 Patriots," go to hrc.org.

Source: Human Rights Campaign Press Release

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