“Don’t ask, don’t tell” just doesn’t add up

By Bridgett Geopfert
This past spring, the restrictions on criminals, older veterans, and those with serious medical conditions that would have otherwise caused them to be turned down for enlistment in the military, have been lessened. Yet, homosexuals are still barred from open and honest military service. With the United States’ Armed Forces lacking the projected numbers required to accomplish the missions that it has set, one might wonder why they are not taking every willing and able person that walks across the threshold of a recruiting station. In 1974, “homosexuality” was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It was cleansed of the label “mental disorder” by noted researchers such as Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker. Countless research has shown that homosexuals are equally well adjusted and as competent as the heterosexual population, yet they were still excluded from military service until 15 years ago.The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was established in 1993 by then-president of the United States, Bill Clinton. The policy states that if an individual is to engage in, or is to discuss engaging in, homosexual acts while serving, they are to be separated from the United States military. The policy is one that promotes dishonesty in an institution that prides itself on honor. Potential service members are informed of “don’t ask, don’t tell” upon enlistment and are told to keep their sexuality, whatever it may be, to themselves. Also during this process they are informed that the military is an equal opportunity employer. At this time, those who have been discharged for their sexuality, real or perceived, are not able to reenlist unless they can prove that they have “changed,” or as some may call it: “cured.” According to the Department of Defense, more than 12,000 service members have been discharged from the military since 1993 under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. In addition, 15,000 more had been discharged in the nine years prior to the policy when it was illegal to even say that you were gay, even if you had not engaged in homosexual acts while serving. In February 2005, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released estimates on the cost of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Cautioning that the amount may be too low, the GAO reported a loss of $190.5 million in recruiting costs and for the training of replacements for the troops discharged. A year later, a University of California Blue Ribbon Commission concluded that the figure should be closer to $363.8 million. The United States is one of less than 20 countries in the world that bars homosexuals to openly serve in the military. Some of the other countries include: China, Cuba, Iran, North and South Korea, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. While Countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, and Canada have less prejudice policies. The United Kingdom removed its ban in 2000 and has not experienced any of the results they had feared it would cause. Homosexuals can serve openly in the German military, and since 2000, they can also become officers. In the Israel Defense Force, homosexuals have special rights, such as the right to shower alone if they wish it. The Canadian military hosted the first gay military marriage in North America at an airbase in Nova Scotia in May 2005. The Boston Globe conducted a national poll in May of 2005 showing that “79% of participants have nothing against openly gay people serving in the military.” Currently, there is a bill in the United States House of Representatives that has been causing a stir since it was introduced in February of 2007. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2007 (H.R. 1246) is to replace “the current policy concerning homosexuality in the Armed Forces… with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.” If this bill were to be passed, homosexuals would be able to serve openly. It would be illegal to discharge an individual on the basis of sexuality. It would allow homosexuals to serve their county without having to hide who they are. And what seems to be the biggest benefit of the bill is that homosexuals that have been discharged because of their sexuality would be able to reenlist. This past December, 28 retired generals and admirals wrote to Congress urging it to repeal the policy. z gay men and women are currently serving in the armed forces, and that there are over 1,000,000 gay veterans. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili (Ret.), and former senator and Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, spoke against the policy publicly in early January 2007. “I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States Military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces,” General Shalikashvili wrote. “Our military has been stretched thin by our deployment in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.” What does that mean for the 2008 elections? The Republican Party has chosen to platform for keeping our military segregated. The Democratic Party has taken the opposing stance by choosing to stand behind the abolishment of the prejudicial policy and allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the United States military.