Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Don't Ask , Don't Tell

The issue of homosexuals openly serving in the United States military has received a large amount of publicity as of late. Thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision, the parameters of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy have been ruled unconstitutional. Paradoxically, despite his push to repeal the act, President Obama’s White House has appealed the ruling. The reasoning is that such a policy shift is best made legislatively and not judicially. In other words, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was put in place by Congress (as are most Department of Defense directives) and should only be altered by Congress.

While morality certainly plays into the issue for several people (because they disagree with the lifestyle,) it is imperative that we remain objective as to what is constitutional to enforce. After all I may not think Satanists are moral, but that is no credible basis to prevent them from serving their country. All I ask is that you remain objective concerning policies and their impact within the sphere of military service.

Before we begin, it may be helpful to look at significant events that have shaped the current policy we have now.

                 A History of Homosexuality and the American Military
Lieutenant Frederick Gotthold Enslin is removed from the Continental Army for sodomy and perjury.
The “blue discharge” or “blue ticket” is introduced and primarily utilized to dismiss African-Americans and some homosexuals from military service. Classified as neither honorable nor dishonorable, it still denies recipients many military benefits.
“Blue discharge” is repealed and replaced with either “general” or “undesirable.”
Congressional Gold Medal winner and humanitarian Thomas Anthony Dooley III is forced to resign from the Navy for “participating in homosexual activities.”  He is later cited by John F. Kennedy as an inspiration for the Peace Corps.
The U.S. Navy releases the Crittenden Report which states that there is “no sound basis for the belief that homosexuals posed a security risk."
The Department of Defense issues directive 1332.14 which states: “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual conduct or who, by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission.” Homosexuality is views as a “disability” and gays are honorably discharged under the directive.
In Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court upheld a Georgia law criminalizing sodomy citing that the US constitution did not confer “a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy.”
D.O.D directive 1304.26 (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue) is implemented which forbids recruits from disclosing bisexual or homosexual orientation, but also forbids commanding officers from attempting to discover sexual orientation.
In Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Bowers v. Hardwick by decriminalizing consensual acts of sodomy between consenting adults regardless of sexual orientation.

The intent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was to “identify and exclude those who are likely to engage in homosexual acts while prohibiting direct inquiries into an applicant’s sexual orientation.” It served as a compromise between those who wished to actively seek out and exclude homosexuals and those who wished to allow them to openly serve.

According to a 2003 article in the Army Times by Charles Moskos, 80% of the discharges for homosexuality since D.A.D.T are the result of voluntary statements. He speculates that one reason for this high percentage is that claiming homosexuality  “is now the quickest way out of the military with an honorable discharge” because unless the statement is made under suspicious circumstances (such as after the individual is stop-lossed or immediately before combat) such a statement would be taken at face value without generating an investigation.

It is also important to remember that the repealing of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will not fundamentally change whether or not homosexuals serve in the military, it will just allow them to embrace both lifestyles openly and concurrently. A 2010 study by UCLA estimated that there are already 66,000 lesbians, gays and bisexuals currently on active duty in the United State Military. Under current policy, these individuals would be allowed to continue serving as long as their orientation was never revealed to a commanding officer and they were never caught engaging in homosexual behavior. If the law was repealed, the substituted policy would allow these current soldiers to reveal their orientation without repercussion and allow future soldiers to be forthright at the recruitment stage without being immediately rejected.

Many point to the unique circumstances of military service, such as living in close quarters for extended durations, as creating uncomfortable situations and undermining camaraderie amongst troops. Having never been in the military it would be disingenuous of me to dismiss such concerns outright so I have only the empirical data gathered from soldiers themselves.

In 2006, a Zogby poll of 545 active military personnel (85% of whom were male and 51% of whom identified themselves as Republicans) had the following responses:

·         55% admitted that the presence of gays and lesbians is already “well-known” within their unit
·         Of those who are currently serving with gays or lesbians, 66% believed that the presence of homosexuals has had no impact on their morale.
·          Of those who are not currently serving with gays or lesbians, 58% believed that the presence of homosexuals would have a negative impact on their unit.
·         The most prevalent reason given for excluding gays and lesbians from military service was “their presence undermining the unit.”

In 2010, Military Times conducted a poll of 3,000 service members were asked whether they thought homosexuals and bisexuals should be allowed to openly serve and 51% responded no.

In the past several years, high profile military personnel have openly favored repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Colin Powell, Current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili are all in favor of allowing homosexuals to serve openly. In November 2008, 104 retired generals and admirals signed a petition to allow openly gay soldiers to serve.

Certainly there is still a large number within the military that oppose open homosexuality, but it is somewhat telling that the more time a heterosexual soldier spends serving with a homosexual soldier the less trepidation they have about their impact. From the surveys it appears that our fear of a negative impact far outweighs the reality of that impact.

It is also advantageous to look at how other countries have handled the issue. As of 2010, 25 nations (including Great Britain, Canada, Israel, South Africa, and Australia) allow homosexuals to openly serve in the military. Ironically, the two countries with policies closest to our own are Saudi Arabia and Iran.

I cannot, in good conscience, tell someone who is willing to selflessly die to protect my freedoms that they must first repress their own. How dare we devalue the sacrifice of a soldier because they happen to find a certain gender attractive? If we are to protect the rights of a splinter religious group to obscenely taint the memorial services for a fallen hero, how can we tell the young men and women we send into combat that they are unfit for their calling if they value honesty over deception? All Americans soldiers, regardless of color, creed, religion, or sexual orientation deserve our gratitude and respect. Let’s give it to them.   

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