Oct. 12 demonstrations in the nation's capital, some current and former service
members urged U.S. lawmakers to repeal both a 1993 "Don't Ask Don't
Tell" policy that prevents openly homosexual men and women from serving in
the armed forces and a stricter legal ban.
"Don't Ask Don't Tell" doesn't work for some
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"Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy adds flexibility to the law against
gays in the military, some oppose the policy.
a lesbian West Point graduate, was the first woman to become a Special
Operations company commander. She says
the strain of living a double life caused her to end her military career.
felt was I wasn't able to fully participate in my unit and in the group
dynamics, because there was always some part of myself I wasn't able to
disclose [even in benign, non-sexual conversations]. That is corrosive to
morale and it's what happens with lots of gay and lesbian soldiers," Kanis
Dan Choi, another gay West Point graduate, was
willing to accept the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, until he
returned from serving as an Arabic linguist in Iraq and fell in love. Choi then
acknowledged openly that he is gay.
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Choi says his friends in the military were
supportive and asked to meet his partner.
met my girlfriend or my wife, so why shouldn't I meet your
boyfriend?" Choi says, "I
could easily have told them [I was gay]. But because of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,'
psychologically, and even spiritually, I was trapped!"
say that Choi's trap was of his own making since no one forced him to join the
military. Eventually, Choi was asked to
leave active duty due to his admission.
Gay activists challenge arguments to uphold the ban
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military is not just another equal opportunity employer, and it's not there to
conduct social experiments," says Elaine Donnelly of the Center for
Military Readiness, a prominent non-profit group that
opposes gays in the military. "It's there to defend the
a career Army officer who has kept her long term committed lesbian partnership
with another officer a secret under "Don't Ask Don't Tell," says that
objections to permitting gays in the military are misguided. For example, she says that she could not
flaunt her gay relationship even without the ban.
are already rules in the military about public displays of affection and
fraternization and sexual-type conduct in the barracks and in uniform, so I
don't buy the argument that it will be a problem," she says.
Policies on gays may impact military capabilities
says that his departure from military service impacts more than his career.
"You have to look at the entire unit that now has one less capable
soldier, one less Arabic linguist. And it's not just Arabic linguists. It's
medical professionals, lawyers, infantrymen pilots [and others]," Choi
He adds that
discharging openly gay service members violates a tenet he learned at West
Point that, "everybody is important for the mission, and that for the team
to lose somebody is really to be less effective."
in favor of the ban say that repealing it would also lead to a loss of military
personnel. Elaine Donnelly of the Center
for Military Readiness cites results of a survey of 2000 servicemen and women
conducted by the independent "Military Times" newspaper. Ten percent of survey
respondents say they would leave the service if homosexuals were allowed to
serve openly and 14 percent would consider doing so.
when you lose thousand of good people in the mid-level ranks and in occupations
that are difficult to replace, such as special operations forces, infantry
battalions, [and] submarines, you are doing great harm," Donnelly says.
Kanis likens anti-gay service members to whites who left the service during the
1950s after racial segregation in the military was outlawed. She believes that
laws should not be retained or repealed merely because some people are
uncomfortable with them.
The controversy continues – for now
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In a speech to the Human
Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights organization, President Obama
said that that he intends to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy,
and to work with Congress to repeal the federal law that forbids gays from
serving in the military. While the
future status of gays in the military remains uncertain, it could eventually
become a non-issue, says Dan Choi. He
believes the younger generation of soldiers may be far more accepting of gays
and other alternative lifestyles than were their predecessors.