Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Kennedy 2003)

Don't Ask, Don't Tell
by Edward Moore Kennedy

Don't Ask, Don't Tell



September 29, 2003

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, this November marks 10 years since our Nation imposed the discriminatory law known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on the lesbian, gay, and bisexual patriots of our Nation. During the past decade, almost 10,000 men and women have been fired from our Armed Forces simply because of their sexual orientation.

Many of those men and women have sought the assistance and advocacy of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, SLDN, the Nation's only legal aid and advocacy organization for those harmed by the military's gay ban. In August, SLDN's executive director, C. Dixon Osburn, commemorated 10 years of service to the organization he founded and the brave Americans it serves. Mr. Osburn cofounded the organization in 1993 with former Army CPT Michelle Benecke.

Under Mr. Osburn's leadership, SLDN has provided legal services to 5,000 service members and obtained 35 changes in military policy and practice related to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue, Don't Harass." Also under his leadership, SLDN's policy efforts have included obtaining new Pentagon and Service policies on anti-gay harassment, an Executive order on hate crimes in the military and an Executive order providing, for the first time, a limited psychotherapist privilege in the armed forces.

Due in large part to Mr. Osburn's work, The Boston Globe has said "[SLDN] knows far more than the Pentagon about what reality is like in the military and helps individuals caught in the mess." Deb Price of The Detroit News also commended their work, nothing that: "SLDN has repeatedly forced the Pentagon not just to take notice, but to change." And the Nation reports, "It's amazing how much this small legal-aid group has accomplished already."

Mr. Osburn received the 1994 GAYLAW Distinguished National Service Award, and the 1998 Kevin Larkin Award for Public Service from the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association. In 1998, Mr. Osburn was named by the Advocate magazine as one of the Top 10 National Gay Leaders. In 2000, under Mr. Osburn's leadership, SLDN received "Organization of the Year" awards from both the District of Columbia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the International Lesbian & Gay Museum of History. I am honored today to recognize his decade of leadership at the helm of SLDN and his unparalleled advocacy for our men and women in uniform.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).