The End of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Today, President Obama certified to Congress that the conditions necessary for ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have been met. His certification follows that of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
This means that in 60 days – on September 20, 2011 – DADT will cease to exist.
A few hours after the President’s certification, I joined a call with Secretary Panetta, Jeh Johnson, General Counsel for the Department of Defense, Brian Bond, the LGBT liaison in the White House, and Kathleen Hartnett from the White House Counsel’s office. We had the chance to thank many of the leaders in the LGBT community who worked so hard to make this moment possible.
Reaching this point has not been easy. There were those who doubted that President Obama could deliver on his promise to repeal DADT, especially in such a polarized political environment.
But the President was confident that our collective efforts would yield results, knowing that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Even when success looked very unlikely, President Obama remained resolute, and in December of 2010, Congress finally passed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act.
Now, we are 60 days away from the moment when DADT becomes history. As President Obama said at last year’s signing ceremony, “No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love.”
Repeal also strengthens national security. As Secretary Panetta pointed out on today’s call, patriotic Americans with valuable military experience and skills will no longer be forced out of the armed services, just for being gay or lesbian.
On today’s conference call, I thanked the 14,000 men and women who have been discharged under DADT for their sacrifice and dedication to our freedom. President Obama has said that, as Commander in Chief, he hopes many of them seek to reenlist once repeal is implemented. I also took the opportunity to commend those gay and lesbian Americans who are already serving our country in uniform, and will soon be able to do so openly.
Last month, when President Obama welcomed grassroots leaders from the LGBT community to the White House, he said, “what gives me hope is the deeper shift that we’re seeing that’s a transformation not just in our laws, but in the hearts and minds of people.”
Today’s certification of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal is part of that shift in our laws, hearts, and minds. As brave Americans continue building a more perfect union, the Obama Administration will work alongside them, every step of the way.
Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.