Baldwin, Murphy Hail Pentagon’s Move to Include Sexual Orientation in Anti-Discrimination Policy

Baldwin and Murphy called for Carter to change policy last month

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) released a joint statement hailing U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s announcement that the Pentagon will protect gay, lesbian and bisexual troops from discrimination. Secretary Carter’s announcement comes just days after Murphy and Baldwin introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would establish sexual orientation as a protected category under the DoD Military Equal Opportunity Program, and just weeks after Murphy and Baldwin led a bipartisan group of 22 senators in calling on the Pentagon to update the equal opportunity policies across DoD and military services to prevent discrimination, harassment, or intimidation of service members based on sexual orientation.

“The United States has the greatest military in the world – not only due to our soldiers’ dedication and training, but because of the values they represent and fight for every single day,” said Baldwin and Murphy. “Yet by permitting discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers, the Pentagon had failed to live up to those same ideals.”

We applaud Secretary Carter’s decision to finally apply formal equal opportunity protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers seeking to serve their country. It was simply the right thing to do. The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ represented a tremendous step forward toward full equality, but the fight for full, open service for all who want to serve is not over,” the Senators added.

In the letter that Baldwin, Murphy, and 22 other senators sent to Secretary Carter last month, the senators explained that the 2011 repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy enabled service members to serve openly without the fear of being discharged, but failed to include binding protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members in Equal Opportunity Programs. The senators noted that under Army, Navy, and Air Force regulations, only race, color, religion, sex, and national origin are protected under equal opportunity policies, and requested that Carter amend the policies to include sexual orientation as a protected.

The letter was also signed by the following senators: U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Gary Peters (D-Mich), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine).