Written by Gregg Brekke
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, the UCC's executive and minister for LGBT concerns, issued a statement praising the Pentagon's announcement of the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy that prohibited openly lesbian, gay and bisexual persons from serving in the military.
Acting on a 2008 campaign promise and following the decisions of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, President Barack Obama has formally repealed the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military. The law, passed in December, specified that the repeal will take effect 60 days from today.
"With the repeal, gay, lesbian and bisexual service members will no longer be forced to deny who they are as persons or maintain lives of secrecy and separation from their service comrades," Schuenemeyer said.
However, he noted in his statement that the repeal of DADT does not protect transexual service members from discharge based on expression of gender identity.
Schuenemeyer's full statement is included below:
The Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer
Executive and Minister for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns
Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ
July 22, 2011
With today’s certification from the Pentagon and President Obama, the last step to the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy has been taken and in 60 days, the policy will be dead. This ends a policy that forced same gender loving military personnel to lie about their sexual orientation in order to serve and defend their country.
Eighteen years ago the 19th General Synod of the United Church of Christ called for an end to the ban against gays and lesbians in the military. The resolution supported “the development of just and uniform standards of sexual conduct for all military personnel.”
United Church of Christ leaders have advocated that no category of citizens of the United States should be regarded as second class and singled out for discrimination. All should be afforded equal opportunity and equal protection under the Constitution. Under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy more than 13,000 gays and lesbians were discharged and an uncounted number of others left prior to completing full careers due to the pressures it imposed.
With the repeal, gay, lesbian and bisexual service members will no longer be forced to deny who they are as persons or maintain lives of secrecy and separation from their service comrades. They will be free to acknowledge their orientation and their loved ones, and rest secure in the knowledge that should they be killed or wounded their loved ones will be notified.
It is important to note that the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell applies only to sexual orientation and not to gender identity. Transgender people continue to suffer the injustice of not being allowed to serve openly in the military. Although transgender service members will no longer be discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, they may continue to be barred from enlisting or serving openly under other provisions of the military code. Like the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policies, the bans on service by transgender people are also based on stereotypes and a lack of accurate information. The military should take immediate action to repeal these policies, as well. There is more information on this from the Service members Legal Defense Network at <sldn.org/pages/transgender-people-and-military-service>.