Dear President Obama,
My wife and I and our three children, now adults, served as a military family for 23 years before I retired as a colonel in the Air Force. While my family did not have to experience frequent separations or my death or serious injury like so many service families do now, all military families make sacrifices. We moved twice with kids who were entering their senior year of high school. We appreciate that you and Michelle have made military families a top priority.
Our three adult children are responsible citizens who all work in education, one at an early childhood special needs school in Columbus, OH, one at a high school in Prince Georges County, MD and one at the University of Maryland. We are so very proud of all of them.
One of our children is gay, and that is the motivation for this letter. We have been encouraged by the difficult and courageous decisions you have made in many areas, domestic and international, and we are grateful for the promises you have made to secure civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) citizens. We worry, however, that you are moving too cautiously. Several bills are working their way through Congress, but so far we haven’t seen the special push from the White House that could accelerate the process.
As a retired military officer, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t tell is of paramount importance to me, and I spoke on the Capitol lawn with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in March. I understand there is a legislative procedure to follow, but a stop-loss order from you now could prevent the dismissal of Lt. Dan Choi, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, Major Margaret Witt, and all the other valuable gay military members who are losing their beloved careers while the ponderous legislative process lumbers along.
Hate crimes. Housing and employment discrimination. Immigration policy. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Defense of Marriage Act. Each of these may seem like a small matter, but taken together, they represent a significant and unconscionable disservice by our federal government to its GLBT citizens. Change is imperative.
I understand there are always political costs to evaluate, but I no longer think moving quickly on these issues will have the negative consequences you might fear. The country’s attitude toward equality for GLBT citizens is moving with a speed we could not have imagined just a few years ago, even on the issue of marriage which has always been the most controversial.
Please act with the courage of your convictions. Use the power of your office to advance equality and fairness for all without further delay.
Col. Daniel Tepfer, USAF (ret.)