Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who has been one of the loudest voices to repeal the military's failed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", hasintroduced novel legislation that would protect gay soldiers who come forward to testify.
Gay service members who reveal their sexual orientations during congressional testimony would be immune from forced discharges under a bill introduced Wednesday, as lawmakers prepare to consider repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military. The legislation's author, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said the bill is needed to ensure that Congress has reliable and relevant witnesses at its disposal if the House holds hearings next year on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The bill also would protect from retaliatory personnel actions any members of the military who testify for or against lifting the 16-year ban. "How can there be anything more important than a gay member of the service having the right to testify before the Armed Services Committee of the Congress that he is under the aegis of," Hastings told The Associated Press. "But if they come and testify, that testimony could be used against them under 'don't ask, don't tell.' In my judgment, it's just a question of fairness."
Hastings has secured 27 co-sponsors for his bill. Servicemembers United, the gay servicemembers group, opposes the bill, saying immunity from government reprisals won't protect gay soldiers from becoming "pariahs in their own units." On the other hand: The Palm Center, the think tank devoted to gay studies at the University of California Santa Barbara, likes the idea and says Hastings' proposal could become the first dent in the 16-year-old policy.
In July, Hastings submitted and then immediately withdrew an amendment that would have de-funded the DADT investigations. Hastings says congressional leadership and the White House "pressured" him to kill the amendment. Hastings later took the extraordinary step of writing a letter to President Obama to publicizing his frustrations with the Administration's lack of progress on "Don't Ask Don't Tell".
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