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Pentagon report: servicemembers want end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

December 3, 2010

I don’t know any gay soldiers personally (as far as I’m aware). I don’t come from a family with a military background (they’re mostly educators). My dad has never regailed me with war stories from Vietnam (he never got drafted). And I do not support war (I’m a pacifist). But despite these facts, despite having no personal connection to the military, despite disagreeing with the war in Iraq, I still strongly believe that gay men and women should be allowed to serve openly in all branches of the military.

Gay men and women have served in the military for as long as it’s been in existence. But they’ve been crucified for it for just as long. And with what justification, exactly? It’s as simple as this: a social and political perception remains that the peers of gay soldiers are not able to do their job effectively while bearing the discomfort of knowing the person serving alongside them is gay. To diffuse said discomfort, lawmakers under the Clinton administration decided that it would be better to allow gay soldiers to serve, but in exchange, they’d have to keep their mouths shut about their identity. Under this legislation, if gay soldiers “out” themselves in any way, an investigation of their personal lives is launched and ultimate discharge from their respective branch becomes seemingly inevitable.

But I just can’t wrap my mind around it. Call me biased, call me a big bad liberal. But I’m not in bad company. This week, the Pentagon released the findings of a nine-month study dedicated to finding whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be repealed or not and what effect, if any, it would have on the military. Now let’s look at the numbers. According to The Huffington Post, the 66-member team solicited the views of 400,000 servicemembers and received over 115,000 responses, along with 150,000 spouses of active and reserve component servicemembers, receiving more than 44,000 replies. They also received more than 72,000 comments from servicemembers and their families online. Ultimately, the study concluded that 70 percent of servicemembers either support or feel indifferent about the repeal.

Yet, opponents (namely, John McCain) continue to wax pessimistic about the detrimental effect the repeal would have on morale and overall military effectiveness. “We send these young people into combat,” said McCain. “We think they’re mature enough to fight and die. I think they’re mature enough to make a judgment on who they want to serve with and the impact on their battle effectiveness.” And I agree with him. They are mature enough to make that judgment, and they’ve made it. But McCain still chooses to look the other way, calling the extensive Pentagon study “flawed.”

DADT has led to the discharge of nearly 14,000 servicemen and women – at a taxpayer cost of more than $500 million. As I write this, Democrats and Republicans are battling the issue out in Congress in a lame duck session, which is basically the last chance for repeal before January, when Republicans take over the Senate for at least the next two years. Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-Pennsylvania) supports the repeal, and begs the question: “Why, at a time when we are in the midst of two wars, would we tell infantrymen, fighter pilots, and even Arabic translators who are willing to take a bullet for their country that their services are not needed?”

Frankly, his guess is as good as mine.

Please send your questions, comments, love letters and hate mail to me at cx@sacurrent.com or follow @chrissygarza on Twitter.

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