Over the last 15 years, America has been engaged in numerous armed conflicts, but no fight has been quite so polarizing as the one some members of military endure daily.”Don’t ask, don’t tell”, what many conservatives view as the military’s safeguard against homosexual activity, has been the cause of this inner conflict for gay men and lesbians serving in the military. What President Bill Clinton saw as a small compromise to protect gays and lesbians who wished to serve their country has, of late, spiraled into sexual discrimination within the military.
Over 13,000 service members have been discharged on the basis of homosexuality since the passage of the 1993 law. Many found themselves unfairly “outed” by their fellow servicemen in what reeked of McCarthyism.
The system has so many flaws that many gay military personnel are speaking up about it despite understanding that doing so almost guarantees discharge papers. They feel that “don’t ask, don’t tell” forces them to violate honor codes and unfairly demands them to hide who they are in order to serve their country. Their service is completely voluntary but it can bear a heavy price: their life.
After numerous cries from the gay community within the last year, President Barack Obama declared during his State of the Union address that he would demand Congress address the issue. After support from Gates and many senior ranking military officials, the Department of Defense started compiling a report on the effects of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
Congress should also recognize that there is no effective way to scale back “don’t ask, don’t tell”. It must be eliminated, and Congress should continue to take steps forward to repeal it. The House vote on May 28 in favor of repealing the law is an encouraging sign and the Senate should follow suit.
To tell homosexuals that America does not value their service enough to openly accept them despite their sexual orientation is a slap in the face. The sexuality of a soldier is of no valid concern to the Pentagon, National Security, or Congress. The law should be repealed for this reason alone. No amount of scaling back would make the law any less of an injustice for homosexuals.
America must, as a people, stop making homosexuality the villain, especially in partisan debate. The opponents of this repeal cling to theories that the government would punish other service members for expression of homophobia based on religious beliefs. Other arguments include a belief that the repeal would hinder some from enlisting or re-enlisting due to the close contact with same-sex couples, and concern that some members would parade their sexuality.
These issues stem from a lack of tolerance towards homosexuals. According to a New York Times article, many service members see no problem serving alongside homosexuals.
“If you trust a soldier with your life, that’s what is most important, not being gay,” said Specialist Kevin Garcia of the Army, who has done two tours in Iraq and is now stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
The stability of the military will not be threatened by allowing openly gay men and lesbians to serve within its ranks. Many militaries throughout the world, including Israel and Britain, have allowed openly gay members to serve alongside those who are straight without incident after the initial repeal of any bans.
There should no longer be the question of whether or not should homosexuality be permitted in the military. The question should be when and how will homosexuals be openly permitted within the military. The answer Congress should deliver is sooner rather than later and it should start first with repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
America must no longer uphold this antiquated legislation at the expense of the loyal gay men and lesbians sacrificing their lives daily.