U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich signed onto a letter to the Secretary of Defense asking for the Pentagon to institute specific anti-discrimination policies applying to gay, lesbian and bisexual service members.
“Doing away with the discriminatory military policy of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ brought us closer to achieving full equality for all Americans,” Heinrich told New Mexico Political Report in a statement. “However, current policies have not been updated to protect thousands of our heroic gay and lesbian service members who still face discrimination in the workplace. That’s unacceptable and it must change.”
Buzzfeed News was the first to report the letter.
The letter calls on Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to expand upon the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a policy that did not allow anyone who is openly gay to serve in the Armed Forces.
“Formal equal opportunity policy in the military provides no protection or redress for service members who find themselves victims of sexual harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation,” the letter reads. “The repeal of DADT represented great progress toward eradicating a significant barrier to formal equality, but the military is not yet an equitable environment for gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members.”
Heinrich is one of 21 Senators who signed onto the letter, led by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Tammy Baldwin of Illinois. Baldwin is the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate.
Others on the letter include liberal icon Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Republican Susan Collins of Maine. Collins helped lead the way for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010 and was one of eight Republicans to vote for the repeal.
Buzzfeed News asked Murphy about the lack of inclusion for transgender service members.
Asked about the decision not to mention transgender service in the letter, a spokesman for Murphy, Chris Harris, told BuzzFeed News, “This letter is an effort to close the book on the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ by urging the Pentagon to finally update its equal opportunity policies and ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Expanding rights and opportunities for transgender Americans seeking to serve their country is hugely important, but is a separate issue from fully implementing the repeal of DADT as passed into law in 2010.”
“While DoD has made great strides toward ensuring equal opportunity for its civilian workforce, based on sexual orientation, equal opportunity policies for the military continue to lag behind,” the letter states. “Under Army, Navy, and Air Force policies, only race, color, religion, sex, and national origin are protected under equal opportunity policies by all three services.”
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed in 2010 and Heinrich, then a member of the House, voted for the repeal. In fact, all five members of New Mexico’s delegation were Democrats and all voted to repeal.