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(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Murray voted for legislation to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, which passed the full Senate on a 65-31 vote. In a speech on the Senate floor prior to final passage, Murray urged her colleagues to repeal this failed policy and told the story of Major Margaret Witt, from Washington state, who was discharged under DADT. Murray also talked about a letter she received from a young woman from Spokane who dreams of joining the military and serving her country, but is currently unable to do so because she is a lesbian. Earlier efforts to repeal the policy had been blocked by Senate Republicans.

Senator Murray released the following statement after the vote:

“I was proud to cast my vote today to finally repeal the failed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. This policy has failed in its intended goals, done a tremendous disservice to men and women who want nothing more than to defend their country and the freedoms America stands for—and I am so glad that it is on the verge of being repealed.”

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s speech today:

“I come to the floor today to urge my colleagues to join me in the effort to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ This policy has failed in its intended goals, it’s done a tremendous disservice to men and women who want nothing more than to defend their country, and it’s time for it to go.”

“…repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the right thing to do. It’s the right thing for our country.  It’s the right thing for our military.  It’s the right thing for Major Witt and the thousands like her.  And…it’s the right thing for people like Rebekah, a young woman from Spokane, Washington who wrote me a letter just a few months ago…. Rebekah told me nothing would make her happier than to be able to graduate this spring and start her journey standing up for our nation. She doesn’t want to feel that she should be ashamed of who she is—and…she shouldn’t have to.”

“We need to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ so that young women like Rebekah won’t stop dreaming of growing up to serve our country.   And so that every man and woman in our armed forces can serve their country openly and with pride.

“…we have heard the stories of the lives this policy has ruined, we have heard from top-ranking military officials that it simply doesn’t work, we have heard from servicemembers that they too want it to change. And now it is time for us to act.”

“For far too long, men and women with the courage and commitment to serve our nation have been asked to hide the truth about who they are. This is shameful, it’s bad policy, and it needs to end.  I am going to vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’—and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:

“Mr. President, I come to the floor today to urge my colleagues to join me in the effort to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

“This policy has failed in its intended goals, it’s done a tremendous disservice to men and women who want nothing more than to defend their country, and it’s time for it to go.

“Mr. President, I want to begin by talking about a true hero from my home state of Washington named Margaret Witt.

“Margaret joined the Air Force in 1987 and served honorably for 18 years as a flight nurse—rising to the rank of Major.

“She was described in reviews and by her peers as being an exemplary officer, an effective leader, and a skilled and caring nurse.

“But in 2004, her superiors discovered that she was a lesbian, and acting under the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, they suspended—and ultimately discharged her.

“Margaret lost the job she had given her life to—and our country lost a talented and committed flight nurse.  But she didn’t give up.

“She went to court, she called witnesses, she made her case—and in September of this year, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that she must be reinstated.

“Judge Leighton said the government gave no compelling reason for dismissing Major Witt—and that the application of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was not shown to further the government’s interest in promoting military readiness.

“This was the right decision—and it was amazing news for Major Witt.

“She is currently working with disabled veterans in Spokane, Washington—but she says she is really excited to get back in the air and back to helping the troops that need her.

“Mr. President—Major Witt is a true hero—and her commitment to our country should be recognized and honored. But she should never have been put in this position.

“She has the skills, the experience, and the commitment to do her job—and the fact that she is a lesbian doesn’t change that one bit.

“Mr. President, there are so many reasons to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’—and to do it now.

“First of all, this policy destroys lives.

“We have all heard stories like Margaret’s.  There are thousands just like it.

“And for every one we hear, there are so many more who suffer silently—whose lives and livelihoods were devastated not because of something they did, but because of who they are.

“Men and women who were kicked out of the military—or who are forced to lie to everyone they work with, who go to sleep petrified they will be found out and discharged—and who wake up dreading another day of mandated deceit and dishonesty.

“This is wrong—and it needs to end.

“Mr. President—‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is also depriving our armed forces of talented men and women at a time when we need our best on the front lines defending America.

“We are fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—and we simply can’t afford to lose critical assets simply because they are gay. 

“And finally, Mr. President, we also now know that repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ won’t have an adverse impact on the military.

“We’ve heard from military leaders who support repeal.

“And the Pentagon recently came out with a report that showed that repealing this policy would not inhibit their ability to carry out the missions they are charged with.

“In fact—this report said that seventy percent of servicemembers believe that repeal would have little to no effect on their units.

“Mr. President—repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the right thing to do. It’s the right thing for our country.  It’s the right thing for our military.  It’s the right thing for Major Witt and the thousands like her.

“And Mr. President, it’s the right thing for people like Rebekah, a young woman from Spokane, Washington who wrote me a letter just a few months ago.

“Rebekah told me that she was a senior at Eastern Washington University—and that her dream for years has been to join the U.S Army.

“She wrote: ‘I believe the military is an honorable calling. One of self-sacrifice and dedication—and I would be proud to call myself a soldier.’

“But there was a problem. Rebekah told me that the very sense of honor that called her to serve her country was also preventing her from acting on her dream.

“The reason, she told me, is that she is a lesbian. And she is very proud of who she is.

“And as long as the official policy of the United States Army is to ask her to bury her pride, to tell her to keep secret a large part of who she is, and to ask her to live what would essentially be a lie—she simply won’t be able to serve her country.

“Rebekah told me nothing would make her happier than to be able to graduate this spring and start her journey standing up for our nation.

“She doesn’t want to feel that she should be ashamed of who she is—and M. President, she shouldn’t have to.

“We need to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ so that young women like Rebekah won’t stop dreaming of growing up to serve our country. 

“And so that every man and woman in our armed forces can serve their country openly and with pride.

“Mr. President, we have heard the stories of the lives this policy has ruined, we have heard from top-ranking military officials that it simply doesn’t work, we have heard from servicemembers that they too want it to change.

“And now it is time for us to act.

“For far too long, men and women with the courage and commitment to serve our nation have been asked to hide the truth about who they are.

“This is shameful, it’s bad policy, and it needs to end.

“I am going to vote to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’—and I urge my colleagues to do the same.

“Thank you, I yield the floor.”