Servicemembers Legal Defense Network wants to make sure that the September 20th death of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” military policy, is the absolute end of gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination and harassment in the military.
The organization which played a key advocacy role in the effort to repeal the law that compelled the military to bar open service by gays and lesbians, has launched an online petition using the Change.org platform, calling on the President to sign an Executive Order barring all discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the armed forces. SLDN originally called for a similar order in February, claiming that an order would be needed before the repeal goes into effect fully to assure clarity for military personnel.
“Signing legislation that allows for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was an historic milestone, and we appreciate the President’s leadership and commitment in making that happen,” SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis wrote in a statement today. “But repeal alone is not sufficient for ensuring equality in the military. Today, we invite advocates for equality to join us in calling on the President to issue this order. Every service member deserves equal respect in the work environment, and it’s critical that gay and lesbian service members have the same avenues for recourse as their straight counterparts when it comes to discrimination and harassment,”
Though the end of the ‘Don’t Ask’ policy means that gay and lesbian military personnel can serve openly, some LGBT activists fear that anti-gay discrimination may still persist in the ranks, and enlisted men and women may not have any avenues to seek relief. In addition, the end of ‘Don’t Ask’ did not repeal the military’s separate ban on transgender service members, which will need to be dealt with separately. However, such an Executive Order called for in this petition won’t being the process of opening service to trans personnel.
“An executive order by the President prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity would not permit open transgender military service nor circumvent existing medical regulations prohibiting transgender service,” SLDN Communications Director, Zeke Stokes, told the Washington Blade, Tuesday.
All personnel are cautioned to refrain from ‘coming out’ for the time being.
SLDN says that the order, however, would “give LGBT service members recourse outside their chain of command if they are experiencing discrimination or harassment.”
JD Smith, the Co-Director of the active duty LGBT group, OutServe supports this move for the message it will send.
“Its very important that we deal with equal opportunity from the get go as the standard. Obama is the Commander in Chief and he can send a clear message that discrimination won’t be tolerated,” Smith told the Blade. “In the training, they raised the issue that these troops are not going to receive equal opportunity, and that begs the question: why? A clear action by the President would send a clear signal that equality will be the rule in the ranks.”