Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in support of legislation to repeal the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy, which passed the House by a vote of 250 to 175. To watch the Speaker's floor speech, click here. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“I thank the gentlelady from California, [Susan Davis] the distinguished chair of the subcommittee on this important issue, for her leadership on ending discrimination and how we defend our country. I want to salute Steny Hoyer, our distinguished Democratic leader, for bringing this bill to the floor expeditiously. It's been a long-time coming, but now is the time for us to act.
“I want to thank Barney Frank, Jared Polis, Tammy Baldwin, for their leadership. And I particularly want to acknowledge Patrick Murphy. Before Congressman Murphy came to the House, he was a captain in the 82nd Airborne Division and served as a paratrooper in Iraq -- in the Iraq War. He understands the issues of military readiness and has demonstrated tremendous leadership on the battlefield and on repealing a policy that does not contribute to our national security.
“Mr. Speaker, today we have an opportunity to vote, once again, to close the door on a fundamental unfairness in our nation. Repealing the discriminatory ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy will honor the service and sacrifice of all who dedicated their lives to protecting the American people.
“We know that our first responsibility as elected officials -- we take an oath of office to protect and defend -- our first responsibility is to protect the American people, to keep them safe. And we should honor the service of all who want to contribute to that security.
“As Admiral Mullen said on this issue of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' -- Admiral Mullen, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said: ‘It is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. We have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally,' he said, ‘it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals; ours as institutions.”
“Seventeen years ago, in 1993, many of us were on the floor of the House. I had the privilege of speaking, calling on the President ‘to act definitively to lift the ban that keeps patriotic Americans from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces because of their sexual orientation.' Instead, we enacted the unfortunate ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy that has resulted in more than 13,000 men and women in uniform being discharged from the military. Thousands more have decided not to reenlist. Fighter pilots, infantry officers, Arabic translators and other specialists have been discharged at a time when our nation is fighting two wars.
“‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' doesn't contribute to our national security and it contravenes our American values. And that is why the support for its repeal has come from every corner of our country. Just today, ABC News and the Washington Post released a poll showing that 8 in 10 Americans say that gays and lesbians who do publicly disclose their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the military.
“Recently, the Department of Defense issued its report about the impact of repealing the discriminatory policy. And as the gentlelady from California, Congresswoman Davis has said, the action that we took earlier on the DOD bill was an action predicated on what that report would say. And that report reached the same conclusions that a majority of men and women in uniform and a majority of Americans have reached: repealing ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' makes for good public policy, and a stronger America. I add.
“But to do so, to repeal ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' Congress must act quickly. Since courts are now reviewing the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, both Secretary Gates, the Secretary of Defense, and Chairman Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, have called for Congress to act on the repeal with urgency so that they can begin to carry out the repeal in a consistent manner.
“In May, with an over 40-vote majority, this House of Representatives passed legislation to end this discriminatory policy. It was a proud day for so many of us in the House. And today, by acting again, it is my hope that we will encourage the Senate to take long-overdue action.
“America has always been the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are so because of our brave men and women in uniform protect us. Let us honor their sacrifice, their service, their patriotism by recommitting to the values that they fight for on the battlefield.
“I urge my colleagues to end discrimination wherever it exists in our country. I urge them to end discrimination in the military to make America safer.”