Just over ten years ago, I graduated high school. With a high GPA and good test scores, I had the choice of several Big Ten schools and could likely have gotten scholarships to a few more. Instead, I chose something else.
In July of 2000, with the consent of my parents and barely ten days before I turned eighteen, I swore the oath of enlistment to join the Minnesota Army National Guard. School would be delayed until after training was complete.
By the end of my training, in June of 2001, I had come to accept that I was and always would be gay. This was not an easy place for me to arrive at. I grew up firm in the belief that morality was black and while, that there was real evil in this world and that homosexuality was a part of that evil. I tried desperately to pray it away. I tried dating. I tried talking to a chaplain. I tried everything, in short, that I could think of to effect some sort of change. None of it worked. I had to accept the truth of who I am or destroy myself through a life of constant denial.
The only thing that saved me from my religion was my religion. Self-obliteration and denial of truth are very strongly discouraged. Giving up is not a value that my church, my family, or my military experience instilled in me. Still, the army, the church, and my family tried to get me to give up a part of who I am, once they found out I was gay. The military did it by telling me to be dishonest about who I am and then kicking me out when I wouldn't. Yet from them I learned to value loyalty, duty, honor, and selflesness. The church did it through judgement and false witness.
Yet from Christ I learned that love and acceptance are not conditional and that the truth is not optional. My family... well, that's between me and them, but let me say that you should never assume you know how someone will react. I was pleasantly surprised by the wisdom and tolerance shown by some, and disappointed by the hurtful things said by others. Yet from them I learned forgiveness, too.
Not one of these experiences taught me to give up.
So now, Mr. President, I ask you not to give up either. I ask you not to give up on Congress, and not to give up on the wisdom of the Constitution and of our Courts. I ask you to push for repeal of the destructive policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell through whatever legal means are available to you.
Because I'm not giving up either. This morning, I walked into a naval recruiting office and started down the road to rejoin the service. Come hell or high water, I will serve. This is my promise to you.
It's time you made good on your promises to those men and women who are ready to put their lives on the line in defense of this nation. It's time that the grieving widow of a fallen soldier is treated no differently if her spouse is a man or a woman. It's time that equal service is given equal recognition and time that gay and lesbian military families are given the same support that straight military families receive. It's time to tear down the walls of discrimination and bigotry that are the true culprits here and time to rebuild trust and cohesion in our military.
It's time to halt enforcement of DADT permanently, pending judicial or congressional repeal. It's time because every day that goes by is that much more uncertainty. And not just for gay and lesbian servicemembers, but for their friends, their families, and the people in their units who depend on them.
Take away the uncertainty, Mr. President, and let us defend our country, our states, and our communities. Let us protect our homes and our liberties. Let us serve with honor.