Sunday, May 24, 2009

Time to Lift the Ban: An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

[Yes, I did send this to the White House, via their website...]

Dear Mr. President:

During your campaign, you made a promise to rescind the current policy regarding military service known as "Don't Ask Don't Tell". To date, that promise has yet to be kept.

This Sunday morning at my church, we honored the brave men and women who have served in our armed forces. We do so three times every year -- on Memorial Day, on Veterans Day in November, and during a special service commemorating GLBT Pride here in Boston, Massachusetts. During the first two services, we ask those veterans to stand. During the Pride service, however, we feel compelled to advise them to remain seated, so that they have no fear of being "outed". It breaks my heart every time we need to do this.

Studies from the Navy, the Defense Department and the General Accounting Office have determined that there is no rational basis for any prohibition on gay, lesbian or bisexual people from serving openly in our military, and that efforts to restrict or bar them from military service are in fact more costly than letting them serve.

A Zogby International poll showed that 63 percent of current military personnel either supported lifting the ban, or were unopposed or indifferent to it, and that 67 percent of those who had experience with gay, lesbian or bisexual people in their military units said that their presence did not undermine unit morale.

Several retired flag officers, including former Joint Chiefs chairman John Shalikashvili, have called for the ban to be lifted, as well as other current and former members of our armed forces, citing the thousands of gays, lesbians and bisexuals who have served our country in uniform and with distinction.

While I am aware that you have suggested that it is up to Congress to change this policy, experts in military law have also determined that it within the authority of the executive branch to replace the current policy with one of inclusion and nondiscrimination. Even if Congressional action is required, it does not explain your administration's silence on this issue.

It is high time that the United States joined the majority of our NATO allies, who allow all qualified individuals to serve in defense of their countries regardless of sexual orientation. It is high time that we judge our soliders, sailors and Air Force personnel by their level of service and character, not by whom they may be attracted to. It is high time that you keep your promise to the American people.

On June 13th, Arlington Street Church will honor those who have fought for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. We will honor those who serve in uniform as well. I would like very much if they could stand to be recognized at that time, or at least know that they do not have long to wait for that day. You have the power to make this so. Please move forward on this, so that our uniformed services can indeed reflect more fully the best that is America.

Desmond Ravenstone

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