A standing American military tradition of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which bans military members from being openly gay, has been the subject of controversy for quite some time. Recently, the topic of its repeal has hit the news, when, on Oct. 21, the rules concerning “Don’t ask, don’t tell” were modified.
The decision to discharge openly gay service members changed hands from ranking service members to civilian leaders. Since the inception of this change, no service members have been dismissed for being openly gay. Rumors have surfaced of the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, causing quite a stir in many military and political spheres.
In 1993, Congress passed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation, forcing military branches to discharge openly gay service members. Since, more than 14,000 people have been released from the military due to being openly gay.
The policy passed due to fears of service members being distracted by what may be called inappropriate sexual behavior. It was assumed that homosexual and bisexual service members would be more concerned with their sexuality than defending their nation, or that they might be a distraction to straight military members.
These theories, however, have no roots in fact and stem from what may be a fear of loss of tradition, or sheer homophobia. Though the legislators and politicians who passed the law may believe that allowing gay or lesbian people to serve in the military is adverse to troop morale or productivity, service members themselves did not make the same observation. In a 2006 study by Zogby International, 73 percent of military personal were comfortable with gay and lesbian behavior.
While “Don’t ask, don’ tell” may be unpopular among uniformed citizens, it is also an expensive policy. A GAO study estimated that, for its first 10 years, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” has cost over $200 million. The rejection of vital service members with unique skills and expensive training due to their sexuality has also cost the military potential productivity – creating redundancies when searching for candidates to fill a specific job.
Though at this time the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is on the fence, it is widely agreed that it is an archaic, unnecessary and prejudiced policy – that it does not affect service members as negatively as assumed, causes more problems than it solves and is a policy founded in fear and ignorance. President Obama himself is quoted as saying “I will end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” giving hope that the policy may soon be put to rest.
Larry Shaughnessy, “Pentagon: No ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ discharges in several weeks,” CNN.com
“About ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,” SLDN.org
“Opinions of Military Personnel on Gays in the Military,” Zogby.com
“Report to Congressional Requesters,” GAO.gov
“Obama HRC Speech: “I Will End Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Says President Obama,” HuffingtonPost.com