Congressman Patrick Murphy will lead
the fight to repeal “don't ask, don't tell,” the law that forbids
open gay service, when Congress returns to work this week.
Murphy will take over as lead sponsor
of the House bill that repeals the military gay ban that prescribes
discharge for gay and lesbian service members who do not remain
closeted or celibate.
The bill was introduced by California
Representative Ellen Tauscher in March before she was tapped by
President Obama for a top post in the State Department.
In an exclusive interview with Stars
and Stripes, Murphy said he wants to repeal “don't ask, don't
tell” as soon as possible, with or without the help of the
“I don't work for the president,”
Murphy said. “We don't need to wait.”
Murphy, a Democrat from Pennsylvania
who served in Iraq, is backing those words with the strongest push
for repeal yet, which includes a website on the issue and
face-to-face meetings with House members.
President Obama has said he is
committed to repealing the 16-year-old law, but has refused to sign
an executive order that would end discharges as Congress reviews the
policy. Both the White House and the Pentagon have said the policy
will continue until the law is repealed. A position that has riled
some gay activists.
Gay activists angered by Obama's
hesitation to make good on the gay rights promises he made as
candidate and several high-profile discharges have thrust “don't
ask, don't tell” into a heated national debate earlier than the
administration had hoped. The Obama administration has fired 282 gay
soldiers, a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network spokesman said.
Murphy's dedication to repeal was on
display last year during a Congressional hearing on the issue.
“In essence you are basically
asserting that straight men and women in our military aren't
professional enough to serve openly with gay troops while
successfully completing their military mission,” Murphy replied to
testimony that implied open gay service would “sexualize” the
military. “You know as a former Army officer I could tell you
that's an insult to me and many of the soldiers.”
But while support for repeal continues
to grow, opposition by social conservatives remains strong.
“If they go ahead with this, there
are going to be protests, there are going to be lawsuits, and this is
going to be taken to court,” the Rev. Billy Baugham, executive
director of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain
Endorsers, told the the paper.
“This is a matter of readiness, and
it's going to break down the relationship between soldiers who are
forced into close quarters,” he added.
Murphy's push for repeal begins
Wednesday as Congress returns to work. The effort's new website at
goes live Wednesday.