‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy supresses our troops

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On Jan. 29, 1993, a law was introduced under the Clinton administration that shifted barriers in the United States military. Popularly referred to as the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, it allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military service, as long as they are not “openly” gay, which includes engaging in homosexual acts and telling fellow service members about their sexual preference.

During his campaign race, President Obama repeatedly promised to revoke this law. Obama finally took a firm stand toward the end of his State of the Union address, pledging to begin the process of repealing the policy.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, carried out a hearing with a Senate panel introducing their plan to carry out a repeal last Tuesday in an attempt to get the ball rolling on the issue. Mullen was quoted by the New York Times saying, “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

It is safe to say that opinions on the issue have definitely changed since the origin of the debate in 1993. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted in December of 2009 showed 81 percent believed openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the United States military, while 7 percent believed they should not.

The opposition’s attitude to repealing this law is based on the notion of “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” But in a sense, there is something broken. What kind of “free” society suppresses the individuality of a person? Men and women brave enough to volunteer to serve their country should not have to hide an aspect of their life that public opinion finds unbecoming. How can these soldiers perform to the best of their ability if they live in constant fear of “blowing their cover?”

A lack of unit cohesion is another standpoint the opposition takes, but as the greatest military in the world, we should be able to adapt and accomplish the mission regardless of sexual discrepancies. Canada, Great Britain and Australia, to name a few, are all functional and cohesive militaries that allow homosexuals in their forces. I believe if our allies are capable of performing effectively regardless of their sexual preference differences, we are qualified to do the same.

According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, more than 13,000 homosexual service men and women have been dismissed since the law was enacted in 1993. This is unacceptable. Within that statistic there are countless intelligent, skilled, motivated soldiers whose career was cut short due to their sexual orientation.

The military system is based on talent and ability: a meritocracy. Success in the military depends on accomplishments, not privilege, wealth or prestige. Therefore, allowing homosexuals to participate in such an organization only makes sense. They are people, and they want to accomplish great things just like everyone else. We stress equal opportunity employment; I think the military needs to make this same commitment.

Obama took a major step in supporting the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and now he must follow through to end this prejudice against homosexual service members. The American soldier willingly signs up to protect and promote the idea of American democracy and all that we stand for as a nation. We, as a nation, are serving them an injustice by not accepting them as they are.

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