By Rebecca Henely
Both openly gay Queens city councilmen applauded the U.S. Senate’s vote to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy Saturday.
Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) held a celebration in front of the U.S. Army Recruiting Office at 82-02 Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights that same night, celebrating the end of the 17-year law, which he called “antiquated” and said played politics with the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
“It’s a great day, a day to celebrate,” Dromm said.
The repeal was also praised by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) in a statement.
“Our nation’s long march towards full equality for LGBT citizens took a giant leap forward with today’s vote, which will finally allow gay men and lesbians to serve our nation openly and proudly,” Van Bramer said. “No longer will LGBT service members be forced to hide who they are in order to serve their country.”
The military policy was enacted in 1993 as a compromise legislation between then-President Bill Clinton and others who wanted to uphold a 1982 policy barring gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving in the military. The policy prevented military officials from inquiring about a service member’s sexuality but also meant service members could be discharged for saying they were LGBT.
Efforts to repeal the bill were made by Congress twice this year after a Pentagon report found repealing the policy would have little effect on the military’s operations. Congress first tried to repeal the policy through an amendment by U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011, but when the act was rejected, a stand-alone bill to repeal Don’t Ask was created in the Senate. The bill passed 250-175 in the House of Representatives and 63-33 in the Senate.
Dromm said he had friends who were dishonorably discharged from the Navy because of the policy.
Van Bramer said his own partner, Dan Hendrick, had been discharged from the military because of the law.
“We can all celebrate the fact that those days are over and anyone who is brave enough to risk their life in defense of our nation will be free to do so regardless of their sexual orientation,” Van Bramer said.
Denny Meyer, public affairs officer for American Veterans for Equal Rights and a gay service member who served from 1968-78, was there to celebrate with Dromm and told his experience with the witch hunts that would periodically occur during his time in the service.
“And now gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans can serve openly and proudly,” Meyer said.
But even as they praised the repeal, they said they were saddened the DREAM Act, which would have provided undocumented immigrant students who graduate from U.S. high schools the opportunity to apply for permanent residency, failed to pass Congress.
“We still have a battle to fight for our immigrant population,” Dromm said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone 718-260-4564.