The Supreme Court has rejected the effort to eliminate the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military which, if you don’t understand the policy, SHOULD mean that the subject of sexual orientation is completely off limits. It doesn’t, however, work that way!
Here’s a scenario:
Engineman 2nd Class Fred Winters returns to his ship after a 24-hour shore leave in Bangkok, throws himself on his bunk and says very loudly: “Man, what a night!”
His shipmates gather around to hear the story of his exploits on shore leave and he begins to tell them about this beautiful Thai girl he met and ALL about their night bar hopping and then, in exquisite detail, about their night at a local hotel.
Suddenly the group notices that Lt. Cmdr. Brady is standing nearby listening. He approaches the group: “Winters!” he said loudly, Are you aware that you have just told everyone in this cabin, including myself, the Executive Officer of this vessel, that you are straight?”
“Ahhh yes sir!” The confused sailor said meekly.
“Are you not also aware that the United States Military has a strict rule about discussing your sexual orientation?”
“Ahhh yes sir I am . . . but I thought that was just for the queers!” Winters answered in a pleading voice.
“Come with me Winters,” the XO said sternly, “you’re spending the night in the brig.”
Winters began to slowly and shakily get on his feet when he heard the XO begin chuckling. By the time he stood and faced him, the XO’s face was red and he was laughing harder than anyone had ever heard him laugh. “Got you didn’t I?” he gasped out between rounds of laughter. “You’re right Winters,” he said then as he regained control of his emotions, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell IS just for queers!”
And so it is! Federal law Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654), crafted by Gen. Colin Powell, was put in place in July or 1993 as a revision to the former policy which barred homosexuals from serving in the military. The published policy reads:
Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender.
(quoted in “The Pentagon’s New Policy Guidelines on Homosexuals in the Military”, The New York Times (July 20, 1993), p.A14.)
My opinion is that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell seems like a good idea for one reason only; it’s terribly discriminatory yes, but it helps provide for the safety of gay service people. The world is filled with people who are, in one degree or another homophobic and, in the close quarters of the military where a lot can happen very suddenly, they are a potential life-threatening danger to gays.
One writer/researcher Scott Bidstrup (himself openly gay), has a different take on the subject. He wrote a brilliant essay on the origin and nature of homophobia titled “Homophobia: The Fear Behind The Hatred”. In it he says this about the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy of the military:
“The U.S. military spends about $30 million a year hunting down and expelling homosexuals from its ranks, in a clear and open defiance of the “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” law, even though its own studies, from the 1950’s to the present, have shown time and time again that they do not represent the threat to “unit cohesion” that is the reason usually given for expelling them.
“In spite of the military’s insistence that unit cohesion is a problem, the fact remains that during times of war, expelling homosexuals from the ranks goes way down (and was practically halted during the Gulf War), when unit cohesion is actually of greatest importance. If unit cohesion were really the motivator, why do they quit expelling that ‘threat’ when the need for cohesion is greatest? No one at the Pentagon has ever answered that question. The answer is obvious to any thinking person: it’s institutionalized homophobia. And this is a case where homophobia directly costs the taxpayers $30 million each and every year it is allowed to govern military policy. And that doesn’t count the cost in thousands of destroyed lives caused by the illegally issued general discharges that sully the reputations of these honorable men and women.
Here’s a quote from OregonLive.com (article linked below) that backs up Bidstrup’s accusation that the military is “hunting down and expelling homosexuals:
“While Obama stays cautious, the Pentagon has discharged nearly 240 people under the policy since he took office, according to the Service Members Legal Defense Fund. Last year, the Pentagon discharged 619 people because of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. The year before, the number was around 600, too. And the defense fund’s Web site contends that nearly 13,000 service members have been discharged since 1993 under the policy.
My long-time theory is that the people who will act most violently against gays do that because they are afraid that they themselves are latent homosexuals. Mr Bidstrip also wrote about that in his essay but to me it seems to be a prime theory — after all, why else would anyone care enough to commit a violent act.
Christian Science Monitor: Supreme court rejects challenge to ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’
OregonLive.com: Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t act?
Law Dork, 2.0: DADT SCOTUS ‘Rejection’: What’s It Mean?
Caffeinated Politics: Supreme Court Betrays Gay American Military Service Members