Main | Thursday, December 03, 2009

Rep. Alcee Hastings: Let Gay Soldiers Testify On DADT With Immunity

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) has submitted a novel bill that would allow gay soldiers to testify before Congress about DADT with immunity from dismissal from the military.
Gay service members who reveal their sexual orientations during congressional testimony would be immune from forced discharges under a bill introduced Wednesday, as lawmakers prepare to consider repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military. The legislation's author, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said the bill is needed to ensure that Congress has reliable and relevant witnesses at its disposal if the House holds hearings next year on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The bill also would protect from retaliatory personnel actions any members of the military who testify for or against lifting the 16-year ban. "How can there be anything more important than a gay member of the service having the right to testify before the Armed Services Committee of the Congress that he is under the aegis of," Hastings told The Associated Press. "But if they come and testify, that testimony could be used against them under 'don't ask, don't tell.' In my judgment, it's just a question of fairness."
Hastings already has 27 co-sponsors for his bill, but gay veterans group Servicemembers United opposes it, saying even immunity from government reprisals won't protect gay soldiers from becoming "pariahs in their own units." The pro-gay Palm Center think tank, however, thinks Hastings' bill could become the first real dent in the DADT wall.

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