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Don’t ask, don’t tell…don’t care                                                                                     Print this essay

Posted at: Dec/02/2010 : Posted by: mel

Related Category: Politics & Gov,

Don't ask, don't tell is the term used to describe the policy restricting the United States military from asking too many questions with respect to a service member’s sexual preferences or behavior. The policy was introduced as a compromise measure by then President Clinton in 1993. The policy was introduced in response to a Clinton campaign promise to allow all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation to serve in the military.

The “Uniform Code of Military Justice” (UCMJ) as passed by Congress in 1950 and signed by then president Truman specified that homosexual and bisexual behavior was incompatible with military service and grounds for discharge. When President Clinton failed at his attempt to repeal the restriction on sexual orientation in the armed services, he settled for Don’t ask, don’t tell. This policy essentially states that recruiters and military leadership cannot specifically ask about a service member’s sexual orientation unless they exhibit behavior that warrants further investigation. This was a modest victory for all, the liberals and the Gay community won the right to serve, and the conservatives held on to their rules and personal code. This same policy also mandated punishments for those who harass suspected gay or bisexual personnel. This also explains why the full name for the 1993 policy is "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue."

If there is one that can be said for the United States, we are continually changing. In September 2010 the Log Cabin Republicans (A Gay Republican action group) filed suit in federal district court and got a judge to declare the policy to be unconstitutional. The federal judge issued and immediate injunction prohibiting the Department of Defense from enforcing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. A US Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the injunction and at that point everything appears to be frozen, but change is never frozen.

In response to this melee, current President Barak Obama asked the Department of Defense to study the matter and present a report. Part of the just published report surveyed thousands of active duty service members and found that 80% saw no problem with serving with an openly gay or lesbian soldier. Some in Congress have already come out arguing against the results of the surveys and stating that military order and unit cohesiveness would break down if gays were allowed to serve openly. Some even argue that military readiness would fail at the expense of “wild sex parties.”

As long as you don’t get sucked into the extremism, watching and listening to some of this can be quite entertaining, even if it is at the expense of reality. Realistically, if people with a gay or lesbian sexual preference do represent 5% of our military force, they would hardly be in a position to have “wild sex parties” and truly disrupt military order, most people do keep their private lives private.

Sometimes a brief historical reality check is in order. In the 1950’s then President Truman asked the Pentagon to integrate the services. The response was a host of excuses why it couldn’t be done and how it would disrupt all semblance of “military order” (sounds familiar). After hearing all the arguing and being frustrated at not being listened to President Truman then issued an executive order mandating the integration of the services. Despite all the boot stomping and general noise making to the contrary, integration took place in the armed forces without serious issue.

In a similar manner, while women have been a part of the military since the beginning of time, it was less than 20 years ago that women were given the right to serve in some roles that included being stationed along side men in forward area units. At the time there was a great deal of hand wringing over this. Some said women would be a distraction and others pointed to the risk of being over protected by their fellow service members in a combat situation. There was also the arguement that order would break down and "wild sex parties" would take place (another echo). For the most part none of this has proven true and women have contributed to our military strength and success in a variety of roles across all theaters.

The bottom line is that soldiers in all services actually behave better and more professionally than many lawmakers are willing to give them credit for. I guess there is some preconceived vision that military personnel only want to enjoy wine, women & parties.

For the soldier with a gay or lesbian sexual preference our first concern should be “will this affect their ability to serve.” The last 20 years have shown that gay and lesbian service members are very capable of performing their military duties in a professional and worthy manner. Additionally, their presence is in most cases has not been disruptive to morale or unit effectiveness. There is also the argument of a willingness to serve. I should first state that nowhere in our constitution is there a guaranteed “right” to serve. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the majority of men and women who currently serve in our professional and all volunteer military don’t care about the sexual orientation of their fellow service members; they just want to serve their country proudly and professionally, and believe others should be able to do the same.

All capable citizens who are interested and capable of serving in our armed forces should be able to regardless of race, religion, or sexual preference provided that none of these affect their ability to perform their duties.

Since Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was instituted in 1993 more than 14,000 troops have been discharged under its provisions. Many of these people left the service with mission critical skill. We cannot afford to have in our uniforms any but the most qualified and most motivated. As the policy is currently implemented it forces people to lie. Forcing people to lie creates an integrity issue that I am extremely uncomfortable with. By forcing a lie we are challenging their integrity as individuals and the integrity of our military institution.

I am hard pressed to draw a comparison between the two, but maybe it is time for President Obama to behave more like President Truman. Much like when Truman ordered the integration of the armed services, President Obama could and should simply give the executive order as Commander In Chief so we can stop debating the obvious and move the national agenda to other critical subjects. Like I said at the beginning, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…I don’t really care.

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