Twenty-eight retired generals and admirals released a letter on Friday urging Congress to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law, according to a report in Friday’s New York Times. The letter’s release marked the the 14th anniversary of the policy that allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the military but only if they keep their orientation secret.
“We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” says the letter, a copy of which Stars and Stripes also received.
The officers said in the letter that “scholarly data show” that 65,000 gay men and lesbians now serve in the American armed forces and that there are more than 1 million gay veterans.
“They have served our nation honorably,” the letter states.
Although the signers of the letter are high-ranking, none is of the stature of Gen. John Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the policy was adopted and who now argues for its repeal, the Times noted. Shalikashvili refocused attention on the issue earlier this year when he wrote in a New York Times op-ed that conversations with military personnel had prompted him to change his position.
Through 2006, more than 10,000 people were removed from the military under the policy, according to government statistics cited by the Times.
But the number of servicemembers discharged under the policy has declined noticeably since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dropping to 612 in fiscal 2006 from 1,227 in fiscal 2001, the paper reported.
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Times on Thursday that there were no efforts at the Pentagon or across the military to alter the policy.
Text of the letter ...
We respectfully urge Congress to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Those of us signing this letter have dedicated our lives to defending the rights of our citizens to believe whatever they wish. As General Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said when the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was enacted, it is not the place of the military or those in senior leadership to make moral judgments.
Scholarly data show that there are approximately one million gay and lesbian veterans in the United States today, as well as 65,000 gays and lesbians currently serving in our armed forces. They have served our nation honorably.
We support the recent comments of another former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General John Shalikashvili, who has concluded that repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would not harm, and would indeed help, our armed forces. As is the case in Britain, Israel, and other nations which allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion, and sexuality. Such collaboration reflects the strength and the best traditions of our democracy.
Lieutenant General Jerry Hilmes; Branch: Army
Vice Admiral Harold Koenig; Branch: Navy; Field: Medical
Vice Admiral James Zimble, Midlothian, VA; Branch: Navy; Field: Medical
Major General Leslie Burger, Vancouver, WA; Branch: Army; Field: Medical
Major General Alexander Burgin, Salem, OR; Branch: Army NG; Field: Artillery
Major General Michael Conrad, McLean, VA; Field: Infantry
Major General James Delk, Fair Oaks, CA; Branch: Army; Field: Medical
Major General Jack Farris, New Jersey; Branch: Air Force; Field: Aviation (pilot)
Major General Fred Forster, Tennessee; Field: Aviation
Major General David Hale, Hampton Bays, NY; Field: Combat
Major General Randy Jayne, McClean, VA; Branch: Air NG; Field: Aviation (pilot)
Major General Dennis Laich, Dublin, OH; Branch: Army; Field: Military Police
Major General Dennis Malcor, Vine Grove, KY; Branch: Army; Field: Combat
Major General Michael Scotti*, Arlington, VA; Branch: Army; Field: Medical
Major General Harry Sieben, Minnesota; Branch: Army and Air NG
Rear Admiral William Retz; Branch: Navy
Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender, Woodbridge, VA; Branch: Army; Field: Medical
Brigadier General Dale Barber, Waverly, NY; Branch: Army; Field: Infantry Engineer
Brigadier General Harold Bowman, Pleasant Hill, IA; Branch: Army NG; Field; Medical
Brigadier General Douglas Bradley, Diablo, CA; Branch: Army; Field: Medical
Brigadier General William Colvin; Branch: Army NG
Brigadier General Bob Hardy; Branch: Army
Brigadier General JD Johnson, Salt Lake City, UT; Branch: Army
Brigadier General Phil Peay, Utah; Field: Engineering
Brigadier General Robert Poirot, Evergreen, CO; Branch: Army; Field: Artillery
Brigadier General Philip Pushkin, Randallstown, MD; Branch: Army NG
Brigadier General Donald Schenk, Troy, MI; Branch: Army; Field: Combat Systems
Brigadier General Daniel Wardrop, Williamsburg, VA; Field: Artillery
*General Scotti passed away in September, 2007 after agreeing to sign onto this statement. His widow has requested that he remain on the statement.