California's two U.S. senators are among about a dozen who introduced a bill today to end "don't ask, don't tell," the 17-year-old policy that prevents gay Americans from serving openly in the armed forces.
"I look forward to ending the discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell policy as soon as possible," Sen. Barbara Boxer said in a statement. "We cannot afford to lose the service of dedicated and honorable military personnel, which is happening right now."
"Every American should have the opportunity to serve their country, regardless of race, sex, creed, or sexual orientation," Senator Dianne Feinstein added.
"The criteria for serving one's country should be competence, courage and willingness to serve. When we deny people the chance to serve because of their sexual orientation, we deprive them of their rights of citizenship, and we deprive our armed forces the service of willing and capable Americans."
The Senate bill, which joins a similar bill introduced in the House last year, comes at a crucial time.
Early last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen told Congress that "don't ask, don't tell" is wrong and should be repealed. But they also laid out a year-long review process before the change would take effect. And since then, however, the military branch chiefs have expressed concern about possible disruptions in the ranks at a time of two wars.
But as the Bee's editorial board said this month, the experience of U.S. allies shows that those worries are overblown.
The next move is up to Congress, which now has bills in both Houses to consider.
"Congress should act quickly to get a bill to Obama's desk," the editorial concluded. "Repeal of this discriminatory, wrongheaded law can't come soon enough."