Strong voices for equality rang out in the California State Legislature on June 23. Iraq veteran Joseph Rocha and SLDN's own Commander Zoe Dunning (USN Ret.) delivered powerful personal testimony about the harmful impact of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) law, focusing on its inherent injustice, the disproportionate impact on women, and the cost to American taxpayers.
Joseph discussed the conclusion by the US Navy that he was improperly hazed and abused by homophobic sailors. (He was forced to kneel before canine units and say he was "not worthy" because he was perceived to be gay.) Zoe shared her experience as the only person-ever -- to have beaten the DADT discharge process. While serving for 14 years as openly lesbian in the US Navy, Zoe received two promotions and several awards and commendations.
State Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) pointed out how California is home to 137,000 gay and lesbian veterans - the most of any state in the nation. And that the US lags behind 27 other countries whose militaries have integrated LGBT people into their armed forces with no adverse effect on military readiness, morale, good order or unit cohesion.
The testimony of Sen. Kehoe, Joseph and Zoe persuaded the California Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to pass SJR 9 (4-1), which calls on Congress and President Obama to enact HR 1283 (Military Readiness Enhancement Act). The MREA repeals DADT and replaces it with a non-discrimination policy. Authored by Equality California, SJR 9 is a clarion call for a stronger military and a more secure America through full inclusion and sound policy. California has the largest congressional delegation, the most electoral votes, and the largest population in the United States. The message from California is clear: Separate is not equal.
There is no excuse for delay. The time to repeal the inane law is now. California is moving the cause of equality forward. What are lawmakers in Washington doing?
06-24-09 By Julian Chang, SLDN Board |