The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was the result of former President Bill Clinton’s opposition to an executive order banning homosexuals from serving in the U.S. military. Though the policy is becoming unpopular today, it was once seen as an important step.
Clinton’s only success in this matter, however, was that new recruits were not asked their sexual orientation. Gays and lesbians serving in the military could still be discharged if their orientation was discovered. According to the Service Members Legal Defense Network, more than 12,500 service men and women have been discharged under the policy.
Gays and lesbians in the U.S. make up a minority population and are clouded in the same civil rights struggles that have become the hallmark of our nation’s progressiveness. A March 2009 study by the Pew Research Center found that 59 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing openly gay individuals in the military and only 32 percent are opposed. These numbers suggest that the U.S has adopted a more tolerant attitude toward this issue. Perhaps it is time our government follows suit.
Many feel that allowing gays in the military would cause an uncomfortable situation for hetrosexual soldiers, or that inappropriate behavior may take place among the ranks.
However, thinking critically about this argument, one must realize that hetrosexual men and women are consistently around one another in the armed forces. Are these men and women not allowed to serve together, side by side, because part of the discipline of being a soldier demands control of lustful behavior?
If discipline can explain why men and women are able to serve together, then the same discipline could be practiced by homosexual men and women in the barracks. This homophobic ideology stems from a society that condemns homosexuality as eccentric behavior confined to social deviants.
According to the White House Web site, “(Obama) supports repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security.”
“The military has been assured it will have wide latitude to undertake a detailed study of how a change in the policy would affect the military,” said a senior pentagon official to the Boston Globe.
This reflects the administration’s desire to weigh all possible implications before making decisions.
The main obstacle to any type of change in the policy is Congress, whose members have to answer to the voters in their precincts. This is a serious obstacle since many voters consider homosexuality immoral, as our major religions stand vigorously against it. Many are likely against changes to the policy because such changes may give ground to the movement in favor of gay marriage.
This issue has become quite political, as both the left and right have used the debate to garner favor from their constituents. It is important to remember, though, that this is a civil rights issue. We are excluding members of our society from their rights on the basis of their bedroom preferences. Though the arguments over nature vs. nurture continue, homosexuality is found all over the world and throughout history, yet the United States continues to bar homosexuals from military service.
The time has come to finally put an end to this beacon of American intolerance, and allow all of our citizens the right to fight for their nation, families, and loved ones.