2010-DEC-22: President Obama signed bill into law:
President Obama signed the DADT repeal bill in the Sidney R. Yates Auditorium at the U.S. Department of the Interior on Wednesday morning, 2010-DEC-22. He was introduced to hundreds of attendees by Vice President Joe Biden. Many in the audience were lesbians, gays or bisexuals; many of those were former servicemembers.
Sharing the stage with the President, vice-President, and congress members were two former service members, one lesbian and one gay:
Marine Staff Sergeant Eric Alva is gay and was the first American member of the military to be wounded in Iraq. In March 2003, he was injured by a land mine, and had to have a leg amputated. He received the Purple Heart and a medical discharge.
Navy Commander Zoe Dunning came out of the closet in in 1993 as a Navy Reserves lieutenant. After a lawsuit, she was permitted to remain in the Reserves and became the longest serving openly lesbian or gay member ever in the US military.
National Guard Colonel Grethe Cammermeyer, a lesbian, was discharged in 1992. Her book "Serving in Silence" was later made into a movie and helped introduce the plight of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGBs) service members to the public. She led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Vice President Joe Biden said:
"Hey, folks, how are you? ... It's a good day ... It's a real good day. ¬ As some of my colleagues can tell you, this is a long time in coming. But I am happy it's here. ..."
"It was a great five-star general and President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once said, 'Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness and consideration, and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.' By repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' today, we take a big step toward fostering justice, fairness and consideration, and that real cooperation President Eisenhower spoke of."
"This fulfills an important campaign promise the President and I made, and many here on this stage made, and many of you have fought for, for a long time, in repealing a policy that actually weakens our national security, diminished our ability to have military readiness, and violates the fundamental American principle of fairness and equality -- that exact same set of principles that brave gay men and women will now be able to openly defend around the world."
"It is both morally and militarily simply the right thing to do. ¬ And it's particularly important that this result was fully supported by those within the military who are charged with implementing it. ¬ And I want to pay particular respect, just as a personal note -- as we used to say, I used to be allowed to say in the Senate, a point of personal privilege -- Admiral Mullen, you're a stand-up guy. ¬ (Applause.) ¬ I think they like you." 1 ¬
President Obama introduced his remarks with a story about Lloyd Corwin. He had fallen 40 feet into a ravine during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Fellow servicemember Andy Lee risked his life and worked his way down into the ravine to save Corwin. Forty years later, they met again and Lee told Corwin that he was gay.
"... he didn‚t much care. Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what had kept him alive; what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life. It was his friend."
"We are not a nation that says, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' We are a nation that says, 'Out of many, we are one'. ... Valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed."
He mentioned that there were certain to have been gay soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
He continued that for more than 200 years:
"... at every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands. There will never be a full accounting. Their service has been obscured in history. It‚s been lost to prejudices that have waned in our own lifetimes. ..."
"I have spoken to every one of the service chiefs and they are all committed to implementing this change swiftly and efficiently. We are not going to be dragging our feet to get this done. ..."
"I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans who put conviction ahead of politics to get this done together. On December 18, eight Republican senators joined 57 Democrats in voting for repeal, while earlier in the week 15 GOP representatives voted with 235 Democrats in the House."
President Obama predicted that future generations of Americans will look back and ask: "Why was it ever a controversy in the first place?" He expressed the hope that many recently discharged lesbian and gay servicemembers will re-enlist when the DADT policy is formally abandoned in the future. He said:
"As the first generation to serve openly in our Armed Forces, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after. And I know that you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor, just as you have every other mission with which you‚ve been charged." 2
Fox News reported that he said:
"Our people sacrificed a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well."¬
CNN posted its live coverage of President Obama's 22 minute speech that he gave before signing the bill into law: