Pelavin: "It is clear that Don't Ask Don't Tell does not live up to our nation's highest ideals of liberty and freedom, nor does it meet our security needs."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., September 21, 2010 -- In response to the upcoming Senate vote to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, Religious Action Center Associate Director Mark J. Pelavin sent the following letter:
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
September 21, 2010
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis which includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis, I urge you to support the repeal of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy within the Defense Authorization Act. Any attempt to oppose this repeal through a filibuster should also be rejected.
We are pleased that the White House and military leaders have recognized the urgency of repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell," while respecting the complexity and seriousness of the issue, as evidenced by the ongoing Defense Department review of the sixteen year old policy. Already, however, it is clear that the policy does not live up to our nation's highest ideals of liberty and freedom, nor does it meet our security needs.
Since its inception, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has forced gay and lesbian service members to live their lives in secret, always at risk of losing their ability to serve our country. Almost 14,000 soldiers and sailors have been expelled under the policy. It has been estimated by the GAO that the cost of replacing these service members exceeds $200 million, with a follow up study by an expert commission placing the figure even higher, at $363 million. This is an unacceptable use of funds, especially in times of war and recession.
More than two-dozen countries allow homosexuals to serve openly in their militaries without negative impact on unit cohesion or efficiency. In fact, among NATO countries, only the United States and Turkey continue to have such bans. In Iraq and Afghanistan, American troops serve side by side with openly gay allied service members. In addition, 75 percent of Americans, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, believe gays and lesbians should have the right to serve openly.
As Jews, we are guided by the understanding that all human beings are created b'tselem Elohim, in the Divine image. Regardless of context, discrimination against any person is inconsistent with this fundamental belief, for the stamp of the Divine is present in each and every one of us. The Senate's repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the Defense Authorization Act is a crucial step toward creating a more just and compassionate military. We must no longer allow prejudice to deprive our nation of the skills and commitment of talented and patriotic men and women.
Mark J. Pelavin