The U.S. Senate voted last week against the repeal of “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” a law that prohibits gay and lesbian service members from being open about their sexuality while enlisted. Those found out are subjected to dishonorable discharge from the military.
Opponents of the law’s repeal cited concerns of the corruption of “cohesion” within the military, especially in a time of war. General James Amos was a forerunner of the reluctance, and said in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month that he “feared lifting the ban would be a ‘distraction’ for Marines fighting in Afghanistan.”
However, these statements simply added fuel to a growing opposing fire, according to Time.
The Service Members Legal Defense Network (SMLDN) found that 73 percent of military members who have testified are open and comfortable with lesbians and gays, while ABC News reported that 75 percent of Americans believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military.
It is easy to speculate that the voice of the majority has not been heard on this matter.
The SMLDN recognizes the fact that those currently serving in the military are of a younger generation, surely more accepting of homosexuality than previous generations.
Despite opponents’ belief that repealing the law may corrupt cohesion, a story in the Joint Force Quarterly made a point to negate this belief. “After a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly,” Col. Om Prakash said in a 2009 article. It is certain that the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” law has fallen behind with the recent advancements in society and the growing acceptance of all individuals despite sexual orientation. Government agencies such as the CIA, FBI and State Department do not discriminate based on sexuality. Increasingly, the military does not discriminate against one’s religion, race, class or sex, so sexual orientation must be next to fall in line.
At some point, Americans must step back from the political implications of this law and acknowledge concern for the homosexual soldiers serving our country.
The “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” law induces an unimaginable amount of stress on these already emotionally distressed soldiers at war.
One must realize that these soldiers are people and, despite sexual orientation, are serving our country like other soldiers.
Instead of supporting our soldiers in their unparalleled sacrifice to our country, “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” represses them, forces them to live a lie and takes an unnecessary toll on their psyche. These soldiers surely deserve our thanks and respect, not condemnation.
The repeal of the law will be revisited after Dec. 1, when the Pentagon is said to complete its study on how lifting the ban will impact the military as a whole.
Tara Petzoldt is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.