Admiral Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama; and Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center participated in an hour-long panel on December 4 to mark the 10-year anniversary of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The panel was moderated by Washington Post writer and MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart, and was the plenary event for the LGBTQ Victory Institute’s 2020 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference.
Prior to the panel, President-elect Joe Biden congratulated U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi on receiving Victory Institute’s LGBTQ History Maker Award, which was presented by former U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy, for her successful effort to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The event was the first time President-elect Biden appeared before an LGBTQ organization since winning the presidential election.
Palm Center director Aaron Belkin underscored the sacrifices that gay, lesbian, and bisexual troops had to make to serve their country as well as the suffering of LGB service members, some of whom lost their lives as a result of discriminatory policy. He credited decades of advocacy by leaders such as Frank Kameny, Perry Watkins, Margarethe Cammermeyer, Zoe Dunning, Michelle Benecke, and Dixon Osburn, and by organizations such as Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Speaker Pelosi and Admiral Mullen both indicated that the DADT repeal was among their most important policy legacies, and Valerie Jarrett indicated that it was among the Obama administration’s most important accomplishments. Capehart noted that transgender service members were not covererd by DADT repeal, and Belkin argued that restoration of inclusive military policy for transgender troops can be accomplished easily in a matter of weeks, and that he expects President-elect Biden to honor his “day-one” pledge to order the Defense Department to eliminate President Trump’s military ban on his first day in office.