Friday, November 30, 2007

Time to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

In last Wednesday's CNN/Youtube debate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the military's policy of not inquiring about a soldier’s sexual orientation but discharging the solider if he or she is revealed to be gay, seemed to be working just fine. Several other Republican candidates agreed with him.

This is nonsense. This homophobic, discriminatory policy has done nothing except kick out qualified, vital American servicemen from this country’s military, and prevents others from joining the military. It’s embarrassing to be an American when this country still, in the 21st century, denies its citizens the right to serve in its armed forces because of something fundamental to their nature, over which they have no control. It has given the rest of the liberal world one more good reason to look down upon the United States.

It’s even more absurd that in the midst of fighting two wars in foreign countries, our military has dismissed hundreds of service members with critical language skills (e.g. Arabic) simply for being gay. This policy has continued to cripple a fighting force that can barely afford any more other handicaps.

Furthermore, the U.S. army is so short on people that it has decreased the restrictions on felons enlisting. Why is the American army so beholden to one religious group’s prejudice that we will trust criminals with our safety and security before gay people?

There is no easy answer to this question, as many of the practical arguments for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fall apart under scrutiny. Many other world renowned military forces (e.g. the Brits, the Israelis) have openly gay soldiers, with no issues.The argument about living in close quarters also fails, since we don’t bar openly gay people from living with straight people in other public institutions, like universities or prisons. The argument that servicemen can’t control themselves when living with someone they may be attracted is ridiculous, and insulting to the servicemen whom we trust to operate deadly weapons with maturity and good judgment.

There is a great quotation from the television show “The West Wing,” where the African-American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff draws a parallel between modern objections to gays serving openly in the military and 1950s objections to racial integrated units:

"The problem with that is that what they were saying to me 50 years ago. Blacks shouldn't serve with Whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I'm an admiral in the U.S. Navy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

This country has to get over its hatred of gay people. It has to stop pandering to an ever shrinking minority of citizens who want to project their religious views onto secular society, at the cost of our safety.

The United States deserves the best and the brightest are serving this country. All the Democratic candidates for presidents support repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Where is the leadership from the Republican candidates who claim to care so deeply about the safety and security of this country?

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