The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 as a compromise allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they kept their sexual orientation secret.
The policy bans openly gay and lesbian service members and prohibits military officials from initiating investigations on sexual orientation when soldiers are abiding by the rules.
According to CNN, military statistics show that between 1997 and 2008 more than 10,500 service members were discharged because of the policy.
President Barack Obama promised the gay community he would repeal the policy when he took office, but many were skeptical because he never set a timetable.
But, finally, Obama rightfully said this in his State of the Union address on Jan. 27: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”
In other countries, openly gay soldiers have not caused problems. According to an article in the official military journal, Joint Force Quarterly, countries that lifted “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies, like Australia, Canada and Britain, did not experience a “mass exodus” of heterosexual service members and performance did not suffer.
This useless policy is costing millions of dollars. According to a University of California Blue Ribbon Commission, it cost taxpayers $363 million over a 10-year period.
On Feb. 2, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen told the Senate they’re going to appoint people to oversee a group that will cautiously work on repealing the policy.
Mullen said to the Senate Armed Forces Committee that he was “troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizen.”
“For me, personally, it comes down to integrity – theirs as individuals and ours as an institution,” he said.
Those who oppose repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy argue it has worked and there is no need to make changes. They believe it threatens the high standards of discipline in the military.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said at the hearing, “The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would very likely create an unacceptable risk to those high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and effective unit cohesion and effectiveness.”
But Chambliss does not consider that there are already homosexual men and women serving in the military – even if secretly. Some think changing such policies in the middle of war is a bad idea.
Yet, using that as an excuse is not fair when it’s unclear when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end while many men and women wait for their chance to fight for freedom.
Haneen Abuqalbeen is a junior majoring in mass communications and political science.