As momentum builds toward an eventual repeal of the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), the first Iraq veteran elected to Congress, has now assumed the lead in sponsoring the bill.
"It is vital to our national security," Murphy said last week in his first interview since taking over the lead on the so-called Military Readiness Enhancement Act. "We have troops that are fighting in two wars ... and we need every qualified able-bodied individual who is able to serve."
The legislation, which has 150 co-sponsors in the House, would repeal the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, which Congress approved in September 1993 and bars the military from discriminating on the basis of a service member’s sexual orientation. More than 13,000 military personnel have been discharged for being gay since the law was enacted.
In Murphy, 35, Democratic leadership in the House has an aggressive two-term lawmaker who in 2006 was the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress. A former prosecutor and West Point professor, Murphy was a captain in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
He said he anticipates a drawn-out battle to rally enough support to bring the bill to the floor. The legislation, first introduced in 2005, has never made it out of committee.
"This is going to take months and months, but change is going to happen," Murphy said.
This morning, Murphy sent out an email to his supporters with more details:
In less than an hour, we will officially announce that I am taking over as the chief sponsor for The Military Readiness Enhancement Act -- the bill that will finally repeal the policy known as "Don’t Ask,Don’t Tell." I have been speaking out against for many years against "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" -- first as an ROTC cadet, then as a professor at West Point, and later as a candidate and a congressman. To now take the lead on such an important piece of legislation is an honor and a privilege beyond words.
This is going to be a busy day full of meetings and interviews. We’ll even be launching a new website dedicated to this issue: LetThemServe.com. But before it all got started I wanted to thank you for giving me the opportunity to stand up and fight for the values we all believe in. I couldn’t do this without you, and I’ll never forget that.
So, to sum up, here’s where we stand on this issue:
69 percent of Americans support a repeal of the DADT law.
The Commander-in-Chief has "asked the secretary of defense and the joint chiefs of staff to develop a plan for how to thoroughly implement a repeal."
The Secretary of Defense stated last week that he’s looking "to see if there's at least a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed."
And now, an Iraq vet has taken the lead on repealing the law in the House.
We’re not there yet (and I know many are skeptical of Gates’ and Mullen’s choice of the word "change" over "repeal"), but the momentum is close to critical mass at this point.
Given that the troops have been harmed by this law, it's good to see a soldier leading the way on the repeal.
UPDATE: H/T to Adam B in the comments for reminding me about this clip of Congressman Murphy during a hearing on DADT last year:
Also available at VetVoice