President Obama Signs DADT “Repeal,” But Work Remains To Be Done

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[Shannon Cuttle is an educator, school administrator, safe schools advocate and trainer, community organizer, and policy wonk. She attended today’s signing and took the pictures featured in this post. The President’s full remarks are below.]

Today the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 took another step forward when President Obama signed the legislation into law in front of an emotional crowd of about 500 at the Interior Department.

The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy still has a way to go, needing the approval of the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff, followed by a 60-day waiting period. Aside from assuring it will be “months, not years, the White House has not given a time table as to how long the process will take or when exactly the policy will finally end. Until that time, organizations such as Servicemembers United have cautioned lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers about coming out until the the law is finally repealed.

Some of those who attended today’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal signing included: Senator Al Franken, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Mark Udal, Congressman Jared Pollis, and Congressman Barney Frank, as well as advocates such as former Lt. Dan Choi,First Class Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen (Ret), former Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, formerĀ Sgt. Justin Elize and Former West Point Cadet Katie Miller. After promising to hold accountable President Obama until he repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Robin McGehee from GetEQUAL was in attendance along with Heather Cronk and Paul Yandura. Longtime activists David Mixner and Frank Karmeny were also in attendance and said they were overjoyed.

The occasion was especially emotional for former Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the first Marine seriously injured in Iraq, who stood on stage with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid during the ceremony. In his remarks, President Obama said, “No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love.”

The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell struggle is far from over as families of LGBT service members still do not have acknowledgment or protections. Transgender and gender-nonconforming service members are not included under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and continue to have no protections. The bill also does not regulate policy or address concerns regarding military academies providing welcoming safe spaces or allowances for lesbian, gay, or bisexual cadets and students.

Former West Point Cadet Katie Miller said today that “although Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is making history today, I do not think students or cadets will be willing to come out in that setting. Much more work needs to be done to have safe schools.”

As President Obama finished signing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tel Repeal Act of 2010 into law, he stood up very proudly and said, ” that is done”.

One part is done, Mr. President, but until the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal policy is certified and put in place, transgender and gender non-conforming servicemembers are protected, and all military cadets and students feel safe on campus, we still have work to do.

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