Pelavin: “Regardless of sexual orientation, those Americans who risk their lives to serve our country and defend America’s freedom deserve our utmost support, gratitude and respect.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 2, 2010 – In response to the Obama Administration’s steps toward overturning the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and yesterday’s related Senate testimony by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center, issued the following statement:
The time is long past due for the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. To the detriment of our nation’s and the world’s security, we have allowed the discharge of crucial and qualified personnel solely because of their sexual orientation. The 16-year-old “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, which was presented as a “compromise” that would respect service members’ privacy and meet our military’s needs, has instead forced gay and lesbian service members to live their lives in secret, always at risk of losing their ability to serve our country. Conversely, our nation’s military has lost the skills, devotion and dedication of far too many exemplary young men and women who wanted to serve.
We are pleased that the White House has recognized the urgency, complexity and seriousness of this issue and is engaging with the military and Congress to end this failed policy. Yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing was a crucial step in that process. We welcome the announcement that the military will review practices and policies with the goal of allowing gay and lesbian members to serve openly. That process is essential. But we urge caution that the review process not be allowed to continue indefinitely; rather, a reasonable and firm timetable should be established and legislation introduced without delay in the Senate to finally invalidate the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law.
We are heartened that 187 members of the House of Representatives have co-sponsored The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and we urge the swift passage and enactment of this legislation. The Senate must introduce companion legislation with alacrity.
Regardless of sexual orientation, those Americans who risk their lives to serve our country and defend America’s freedom deserve our utmost support, gratitude and respect. As Jews, we are guided by the very basic belief 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. We must no longer allow prejudice to deprive our nation of the skills and commitment of talented men and women.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office 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, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.