The military nabobs, many of whom have remembered their hazing days at Annapolis and West Point decided, some years ago that in order to serve your country in its time of need, you had to be heterosexual. You could be an adulterer, drunk, and a paroled felon. You could not even have graduated from high school but gotten an equivalency degree. But, if you were an “acknowledged” gay man or lesbian, you were not deemed fit to serve in U.S. Armed Forces. President Clinton, in 1993, signed a measure that offered some solace and protection top gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces. The policy was referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But, as shall be shown, the policy did not then and does not now completely protect gays willing to serve their country.
At a time when politicians as well as the public are angry about the cost of the wear in Iraq and Afghanistan, it might be noted that the “war” against homosexuals in the military are costly too. “The military spent over $200 million to recruit and train personnel to replace service members discharged over the last decade for being openly gay, according to a Congressional report that was just released” (Gerard 2005 para. 1). In fact, as Gerard (2005) points out, the report found that over 10,000 troops were discharged for violating the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that was instituted in 1993 under President Clinton. The policy allows military personnel to serve only if they do not “come out”- not to the military, not even to friends and family.
As “liberal” as President Clinton’s decision in 1993 may have seemed, the policy is not really clarifying anything: “It is very clear after ten years of practical application that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still a ban on gays in the military. As the Service members Legal Defense Network (SLDN) describes the law in its Ninth Annual Report, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is the only law in the land that authorizes the firing of an American for being gay'” (Alexander 2004 4).
One major problem which continues to remain unresolved in the Military is its conduct involving friends and family members and their rights to privacy. As Ms. Alexander (2004) points out, any “zone of privacy” which may have been envisioned under the policy rapidly disintegrated during its first few years, as practical application made clear that all statements of homosexual orientation–regardless of the forum in which they were made–could serve as grounds for discharge. In other words, the military seems to evade the major basis of law-innocent until proven guilt without shadow of a doubt.
Various spokesmen for the armed forces seem concerned that (1) gay men and lesbians are a distraction if they serve alongside heterosexuals, but even more startling is (2) the fear of spreading AIDS: “According to an Army survey, 80 percent of soldiers who tested positive for HIV admitted to contracting the virus through homosexual contact, and the actual percentage may be higher” (Craft 2004 para. 8). This is not only a specious argument, but a phony one. AIDS, to be pr3cise is not a “gay disease.” One needs only to look at the statistics of the African epidemic. Second, impugning the ability to serve one’s country because of what someone does sexually in private dishonors the many closeted gays who have fought and even died to preserve America’s freedom.
One needs only to point out that not only have the Armed forces lowered (and that word is significant) standards for enlistment, they are stretched thin, resorting to National Guard tours of three or more rotations to Iraq. One also needs to hasten to point out that, nearly weekly, there is a news report of some American soldier or sailor (presumably “safely” heterosexual) arrested for rape. An Associated Press story (2008) says “U.S. forces in Japan charged a Marine with raping a 14-year old girl…and Japanese prosecutors charged a U.S. sailor in the stabbing death of a taxi driver” (A P A4). These are the service-men the government wants to “protect” from gays and lesbians.
Finally, to answer the argument made by many officers opposing lifting the ban by saying the vast majority of heterosexual soldiers just do not like gays, “Professor Elizabeth Kier in the journal International Security, indicate that whether group members like each other has no bearing on how well organizations perform” (Belkin 2003 117).
Now, the Obama Administration has removed the leghal drawbacks of “Don’t Ask, don’t tell!” But, while the Service Chiefs have fallen in line, they surely have done so grudgingly. So, one major question still needs a commitment and a definitive answer: Why are gays and lesbians in and out of the Armed Forces still suspected of being less than patriotic?
Alexander, S. E. D. (2004): “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: 10 Years Later” Hofstra Labor and Employment Law Journal Spring 2004
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: 10 Years Later Symposium
Belkin, a. (2003): “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Is the Gay Ban Based on Military Necessity?” Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Craft, J. A. (Maj, USMC) (2004) “Legitimate Debate, or Gay Propaganda?” Michael D. Palm Center of Public Policy accessed April 24, 2008 via: www.palmcenter.org/press/dadt/releases/official
“Marine in Japan chared with rape” Los Angeles Times via Associated Press, April 25, 2008
Gerard, G. C. (2005): “Military Policy on Gays is Costly and Dangerous” www.dissidentvoice.org