In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama discussed two issues critical to the veterans’ community—the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and the proposed federal budget freeze.
In his speech, the President reiterated his goal of working with the military to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the U.S. military. The President also clarified that while he plans to freeze federal budgets, reducing the national deficit, the freeze will not apply to Defense and VA spending—a clarification which AMVETS applauded. AMVETS National Commander Duane J. Miskulin issued the following statement on tonight’s address.
“AMVETS is happy to see that the President remains dedicated to fully funding America’s defense interests around the world and fulfilling the obligation to fund the needs of today’s war-fighters once they return home. AMVETS will work to ensure that Congress upholds this duty as well.
“Late this afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi broke with the administration, calling for an additional freeze to defense funding—an action that AMVETS considers reckless and wholly irresponsible in a time of war. Politics aside, our men and women are in the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. They need our continued support while overseas and long after they return home. Abandoning our military and our veterans to balance the budget is not an option.
“In regards to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” AMVETS membership passed a resolution at the August 2009 AMVETS National Convention in New Orleans calling for continued support of the stop-gap measure until policies critical to the rights of gays and lesbians have been addressed on a national scale—something AMVETS hopes the President will consider moving forward.
“In the interest of protecting the rights of gays and lesbians who wish to serve our country, Congress and the Pentagon must first consider issues within the current military structure to ensure equitable treatment of all who wish to serve before AMVETS can consider supporting a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“One critical issue is the recognition of legal relationships between homosexual partners in relation to military and veterans’ family member benefits and policies including, but not limited to, housing, dependency allowance, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Survivor Benefits Plan, transferability of benefits, joint duty station assignments, fraternization policies, and family care plans.
“Today, our nation lacks a clear definition of how such partnerships, which are only legally recognized in certain states, can be acknowledged across the board for members of the military. By allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly without considering these issues sets those affected by a new policy up for failure.
“Though the policy may seem antiquated to many and the social climate may be leaning toward change, AMVETS must support House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton in continuing to use “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a standard while the nation is at war, should the military and Congress fail to address the broader social questions first.
“To date, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has succeeded to an extent in affording gays and lesbians an opportunity to serve. A report issued this morning by a UCLA demographer estimates that upwards of 66,000 gay and lesbian men and women may currently serve.
“In the interim, AMVETS also supports Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ assertions that the Pentagon should explore options to enforce the policy in a more equitable fashion. With this in mind, AMVETS suggests that the military enforce its non-fraternization and harassment policies in full accordance with the Uniformed Code of Military Justice and improve enforcement of the oft-overlooked “Don’t Pursue” clause of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” prohibiting witch-hunts against suspected homosexual service members.
“AMVETS prides itself on being the nation’s most-inclusive of the major veterans’ service organizations, representing the best interests of a broad constituency of veterans, which is why AMVETS leaders will work closely with the Administration, military leaders, and Congress to ensure that these critical concerns are addressed before any sweeping policy decision is made.”
To read AMVETS’ resolution on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the AMVETS Legislative Agenda for 2010, Click Here.
Below is full video of last night's address:
(Media: Top Photo: President Obama delivers his State of the Union address. White House photo by Pete Souza. Bottom Video: Full White House video of the State of the Union address. White House images and video are in the public domain.)