Tuesday, February 2, 2010
End the Ban
Today I introduced a Senate Concurrent Resolution urging the Missouri General Assembly to send a message to Washington, D.C., that it is time to end the outdated military policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
The following is the text from my floor speech. I will post the language of the concurrent resolution as soon as it is available online.
This summer I had the privilege of attending a moving event at the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum honoring the 61st anniversary of President Truman's signing of Executive Order 9981 that ended racial segregation in the armed forces. The program explored the history and lessons learned of racial discrimination in the U.S. military. It also examined gender discrimination and the ban on openly gay service members -- two of the remaining challenges of our 21st century fighting force.
Courageous individuals who have served their country under extraordinary circumstances attended the event. It is both fitting and proper that I briefly share three of their stories with you today.
Oliver Vincent Shields served as an African American during World War II. Shields landed at Normandy Beach during D-Day and was selected as one of the 2500 African-American volunteers to serve in the 14th Armored Division (known as the "Liberators"). He served in a segregated army, but fought as hard and brave as any other member of that Army. Oliver Vincent Shields supports a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Chief Petty Officer Stuart O’Brien of the Royal Australian Army served alongside the U.S. military in Iraq in 2006. Australia is one of 27 countries that allow open service of gay men and women. This summer he told the story of a U.S. service member who received grief counseling and support from the Australian Navy Chaplain when his longtime partner was killed while on active duty. This American could not reach out to his own chaplain, his own country or even his own American friends because to do so would be an admission that he is gay and end his career. Chief Petty Officer Stuart O’Brien supports the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Finally, I want to tell you about Shonda Garrison. Shonda grew up in Branson, Missouri and enrolled in the U.S. Army right out of high school. She worked hard and advanced quickly. In the fall of 1990 she, like tens of thousands of other Americans, shipped out to Saudi Arabia and spent almost a year in the desert fighting for this country. Shonda loves her country and wanted to make a career in the military, but after 8 years of service, she had to make the agonizing decision to leave because she could no longer serve in silence. Shonda is gay and under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, she could not enter a committed relationship with the person she loves for fear of losing her career. Shonda Garrison is my partner and she supports the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Today in Washington, D.C. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss how we can end this country’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy. The Senate Concurrent Resolution I am filing today urges the Missouri General Assembly to send a message to the U.S. Congress that it is time to end this unnecessary practice that actually costs American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and undermines our military’s readiness.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "In the 1940s President Truman demonstrated courage and leadership by desegregating the military so that all qualified Americans, regardless of their race, could serve their country with full equality. Today's leaders can take encouragement from the example of President Truman, who, during an election year, put justice and equality under the law before political expediency."
Let’s do the right thing – it’s time to end the ban.