Introducing the Honest and Open Testimony Act

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Introducing the Honest and Open Testimony Act



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Madam Speaker, I rise today to introduce the Honest and Open Testimony Act, a bill that helps provide for an honest and open discussion regarding Don't Ask, Don't Tell by allowing active- duty members of the Armed Forces, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) members, to openly testify in Congressional hearings without fear of retribution. The Honest and Open Testimony Act expands existing whistleblower protections between members of the Armed Forces and Members of Congress to include communications from active-duty service members who testify concerning Don't Ask, Don't Tell in a Congressional hearing, as well as those who do so and disclose their sexual orientation.

The United States of America prides itself on having the finest military in the world because of the hard work, dedication, and sacrifices of its brave men and women in uniform. And yet, under the discriminatory law known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the talents and contributions of our GLBT service members continue to be ignored simply because of who they are. As you know, Don't Ask, Don't Tell was signed into law in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton as a compromise to allow gay and lesbian service members to serve in the military. To the contrary, Don't Ask, Don't Tell compromises the integrity of our troops and kicks them out to boot. For more than fifteen years, Don't Ask, Don't Tell has negatively impacted the lives and livelihoods of these military professionals and deprived our Armed Forces of their honorable service. This is not only a disservice to them, but to our country as a whole.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell hurts our troops, runs counter to the values of our Armed Forces, and threatens our national security. Since the law was implemented in 1994, over 13,500 qualified service members have been lost to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and counting. With each passing day, we lose approximately two service members to this misguided, unjust, and debilitating policy. Furthermore, Don't Ask, Don't Tell continues to undermine and demoralize the more than 65,000 GLBT Americans currently serving on active duty.

Keeping good troops is good policy, and our GLBT troops are among our most talented and dedicated. As the United States continues to work toward responsibly ending the war in Iraq and reengages the threat from al Qaeda in Afghanistan, our GLBT service members offer invaluable skills that enhance our military's potency and readiness. They are linguists, aviators, medics, and highly trained soldiers who are involved in valuable operations that have nothing to do with their sexual orientation and everything to do with protecting our freedom and advancing our national security interests. Above all, however, they offer their lives to serve their country.

I am extremely proud of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces and truly appreciate the countless sacrifices they continue to make every single day to protect this nation and the American people. They deserve better than Don't Ask, Don't Tell. In order for Congress to have an honest and open discussion about the relevance of the current law, as well as on how to best implement its repeal, its members must hear from those about whom Don't Ask, Don't Tell was written--active-duty GLBT troops. Now is the time to take action.

Madam Speaker, I realize that this issue is considered controversial, but it should not be. As Congress prepares to debate the future of Don't Ask, Don't Tell with hearings in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, we must ensure that we hear all sides of the issue and especially from active-duty GLBT service members. The Honest and Open Testimony Act helps achieve this by addressing a major barrier to an inclusive, transparent, and complete hearing process--fear of retribution for testifying honestly and openly about the consequences of Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the Armed Forces. I urge my colleagues to support this important bill, which would bring us one step closer to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell once and for all and replacing it with a policy of inclusion and non-discrimination.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).