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SLDN Calls on President Obama to Address Urgency of DADT Repeal at HRC Dinner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 8, 2009

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SLDN Calls on President Obama to Address Urgency of DADT Repeal at HRC Dinner

WASHINGTON, DC - On Saturday, President Obama is scheduled to give the keynote address to the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner in Washington, D.C. More than 65,000 LGBT patriots will be listening to what Obama has to say about repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the law that bars openly gay and lesbian service members from serving their country.

One of those patriots is Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) active-duty client who is set to be discharged under the law.

"The President told me in June, ‘We'll get this done,'" says Fehrenbach, referring to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." "I hope to hear from him this weekend about timing-specifically when the President plans on working with Congress to reverse the law."

Fehrenbach continues. "I understand the President has a crowded agenda, but I have been serving under this law for 16 years. I also know that ending this law in a matter of months will take the same kind of leadership and courage demonstrated by President Truman 60 years ago when he desegregated the Armed Forces."

SLDN, having represented more than 9,000 of the 13,500 service members discharged for being gay or lesbian, agrees.

"We have no doubt President Obama intends on correcting the mistake made in 1993 with the passage of DADT," noted Aubrey Sarvis, SLDN executive director. "But we've seen no action and the clock is ticking. A clear timeline from this White House and Congress is urgently needed. On Saturday evening we hope the President will call on Congress to partner with him on repeal and send him the Military Readiness Enhancement Act that he can sign into law next year."

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress who spoke eloquently on the House floor earlier this week about repeal, is quarterbacking the Military Readiness Enhancement Act that seeks to reverse DADT and replace it with a policy of nondiscrimination. Murphy's bill currently has 176 cosponsors. A repeal bill, the first in 16 years, is expected shortly in the Senate.

The President appears to agree that DADT requires urgent attention, telling an audience this past June, "I know that every day that passes without a resolution is a deep disappointment to those men and women who continue to be discharged under this policy. But what I hope is that these cases underscore the urgency of reversing this policy not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it is essential for our national security."

The current ban on openly gay people in the military has been "costly both in personnel and treasure" and may '"do damage to the very unit cohesion that it seeks to protect," according to a new, breakthrough study by Colonel Om Prakash published in an official Pentagon publication. And this is the 21st century. No American should be fired for being gay.

SLDN is a sponsor of the National Equality March this weekend, Oct. 10 and 11, in Washington, D.C., and will participate in these events (http://www.sldn.org/events/archives/national-equality-march/) to discuss the urgency of DADT repeal in the 111th Congress.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (www.sldn.org) is a national, non-profit legal services and policy organization dedicated to ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." A journalists' guide is available here.

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