Wyden, Merkley join effort to abolish the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy

WASHINGTON – Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley  Wednesday joined a growing effort on Capitol Hill to force the military to end its controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gays, arguing that abolishing the standard brings both equality to the armed forces and improved national security.

Wyden was one of six senators who took part in a Capitol Hill news conference to formally introduce legislation that would remove a policy in place since 1993. The policy allows gays and lesbians to serve in the armed forces as long as they never acknowledge they are gay. In all, 13 senators — 12 Democrats and one independent — co-sponsored the bill.

“When you talk to America’s young people, they are just slack-jawed about why our generation … cannot clear out this anti-national security, anti-freedom relic. When you ask them about these issues, they say, ‘What in the world are you waiting for?’ ” Wyden said at the news conference.

“We are here today to say we will not accept waiting any longer,” Wyden said, noting that polls show 75 percent of people surveyed agree that gays should be allowed to serve open in the military.

 “The very strongest fighting force demands that we recruit and retain those who have the skills and knowledge to fulfill their missions,” Merkley said in a statement.

“Their private lives should have no bearing on their willingness or ability to serve.  This legislation undoes an injustice that has kept far too many excellent Americans from wearing a military uniform.”