OPINION: The end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

What is the big deal? asks Israel Wilder

by Israel Wilder
Staff Reporter

President Obama signs the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law on December 22, 2010

The military’s ban on homosexuals, also known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT), ended on Sept. 20, 2011. After 18 years of waiting, gays and lesbians can now serve openly in the military. I will remain neutral on this for the time being. However, I did find myself asking questions before I came to this conclusion. For example, is this repeal even newsworthy? How does the rest of America really feel about this? Also, do other countries have gays and lesbians serving in their military?

Here is a quick history lesson: DADT was a military law ordering the discharge of any service member who was openly gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual created in 1993. This law alludes to the idea one could be gay, just not openly gay, and still continue to serve our country.

So, how does the rest of America feel about DADT?

The Associated Press interviewed students at America’s top military academies and found that a majority of respondents said they welcomed the repeal and expected an uneventful transition. What does that mean? I have the feeling that even if gays and lesbians can serve openly that there is going to be tension and harassment initially. Also, according to a ABC News/Washington Post poll, from 1993 to 2008, support for the idea that gay men and lesbian women should only be allowed to serve if they conceal their identity shrank considerably. In 1993, 19 percent of Americans supported this position; by 2008, only 3 percent of Americans supported this position. We seem to be on the winning team when it comes to warfare so why does it matter if you are gay, black, white, Christian, green, etc.?

Do other countries allow gays and lesbians to fight for their country?

Research shows that more than 25 different countries allow gays and lesbians to serve in the military. The ban of DADT takes the US off the same list as Iran and Korea; both countries don’t allow homosexuals to fight for their country. As for Iran, three men were recently executed for acts of homosexuality during the first week of September in 2011. Furthermore, the CIA, FBI, State Department, the Defense Department on the civilian side, and defense contractors do not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

The Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara found the lift on homosexual bans in other countries didn’t result in a mass “coming out” and there were no reports of increased harassment of or by gay people.

According to a report from the Palm Center, allowing homosexuals to serve contributes to improving the command climate in foreign militaries, decreasing harassment, retaining critical personnel, and enhancing respect for privacy. That is very interesting, however what happens when same-sex couples that are married want to live on a military base? Will they be safe?

How has DADT impacted our military?

 The United States must recruit a great number of the most qualified to serve in the military. This is important if the United States wants to win the war in Afghanistan. Reports from the Pentagon show that 75 percent of young Americans are unable to serve in the U.S. military because of poor education, criminal records or weight problems. Yet, there are young people in American who are qualified who want to serve and are, or were, being excluded because of sexual orientation. 

Furthermore, according to the GOA, in 2003 it was reported that 750 mission-critical service members and 300 plus who have skills in important languages such as Arabic, Korean and Farsi were discharged because of sexual orientation. Sounds like a waste of money to me. If they are qualified and their contributions make our military forces stronger then let them serve.

I don’t want to take anything away from the men and women who serve our country and risk their lives for our freedom and safety in our great nation. Today, there are at least 66,000 gay Americans serving on active duty and one million gay veterans in the United States, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA. I just don’t think it should be that big of a deal. Like racial integration of the military 63 years ago, the repeal says something incredibly powerful to all people who have put their lives on the line for their country.

With the legalization of same sex marriages in some states it was only a matter of time before there was an end to DADT. Like I said before, if they are qualified and their contributions make our military forces stronger then let them serve. Let us not all jump for joy until we have world peace. Agreed?

All opinions expressed are strictly of the author, and do not necessarily reflect any opinions held by The Chaparral staff or College of Desert.

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