Just As I Thought

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The Washington Post has some blunt words today about this policy:

Unhappy Anniversary

Sunday, November 30, 2003; Page B06

TODAY MARKS a dubious milestone: the 10th birthday of the military’s noxious “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays and lesbians in the armed services. Intended as a liberalization of the previous gay ban, the policy hasn’t worked out that way. In its first 10 years, it has caused an estimated 10,000 people to be discharged from the military because of nothing more than their sexual orientations. It has stigmatized patriots as unfit for service even as it has made military recruitment more difficult by irrationally shrinking the available talent pool. It has perpetuated the myth that homosexuality is somehow incompatible with military life — despite the fact that the service records of those discharged were objectionable only in the circular sense that they were amassed by people who are by definition objectionable. It has done the nation a disservice by doing wrong to those who would fight for it.

The policy must be repealed. Unlike other gay-rights issues — marriage, for example — this one does not challenge existing laws or social institutions. The gay ban is a simple matter of discrimination, of denying people opportunities to serve because of an aspect of their lives that cannot plausibly be said to bear on their true fitness for duty. Proof of this comes in the evidence that the bigotry is one of convenience. When, as now, America is at war, discharges of gay service members drop precipitously. In 2001, 1,273 gays and lesbians were fired from military jobs; with the advent of the war on terrorism, that number fell to 906 in 2002. But war hasn’t stopped the military from such inanities as discharging gay and lesbian linguists, including those specialists in essential languages such as Arabic. As long as the military remains committed to the principle that gays cannot serve openly, any decline in enforcement will prove only as durable as the conflict that makes leniency necessary. After 10 years, it’s time to give up on this failed policy.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

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