Honoring the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN)

Honoring the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN)
by Martin Thomas Meehan

Honoring the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN)



Thursday, May 5, 2005

Mr. MEEHAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the hard work and dedication of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a national non-profit organization dedicated to ending the military's failed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

SLDN was co-founded by Dixon Osburn and Michelle Beneke in 1994 as a legal service agency with the mission of providing counsel to service members discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Since that time, SLDN has assisted more than 6,500 gay and lesbian troops and obtained thirty-five improvements to military regulations related to the policy.

Today, SLDN is the Nation's leading advocacy organization dedicated to repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and ensuring open service in our armed forces. Through tenacity and strong leadership, the organization has made significant steps forward in breaking down the barrier that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community looks to SLDN as a model for accomplishing policy change.

2004 was a groundbreaking year for the organization. SLDN filed a monumental lawsuit on behalf of twelve veterans of the War on Terror, challenging the constitutionality of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in federal court. SLDN's legal expertise also paved the way for two victorious cases before the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, overturning military sodomy convictions. And the staff mobilized veterans and supporters from twenty-two states to meet with 90 Congressional offices on their annual "Lobby Day."

I have had the pleasure of working with SLDN since my freshman term in Congress. Most recently, we came together to draft the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, historic legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and replace it with a nondiscrimination policy. Because of SLDN's staunch efforts to win support in Congress, I introduced the bill with more than fifty cosponsors on March 2, 2005. We now have more than eighty cosponsors of this bipartisan bill today.

As SLDN celebrates its national dinner on May 7th, I commend the staff, board, and supporters for their commitment and perseverance. Just as the advocacy of civil rights groups paved the way for desegregation in the military, I am confident that SLDN's hard work will soon lead to the demise of the discriminatory and counterproductive "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

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).