Tuesday, August 01, 2006

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'---Still Screwing LGBT Servicemembers In The Rear

On May 13th of this year, in Washington D.C., the 14th annual national dinner of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) took place.
SLDN is a non-profit organization which offers free legal aid to gay, lesbian & bisexual servicemembers affected by the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" U.S. military policy. The overall goal of the lawyers at SLDN is to expose the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for what it is: an unconstitutional & ridiculous law. SLDN works to protect servicemen & women from harassment, lobby Congress to create gay & lesbian friendly military policies, a positive public image of gays in the military, & represent gay & lesbian servicemembers in court cases that challenge this policy.
SLDN was founded 13 years ago & has since responded to over 6,400 requests for assistance.
According to some statistics gathered by SLDN, there are 1 million gay veterans & 65,000 gay & lesbian servicemembers currently serving in the armed forces. In 2005 alone, 742 gays & lesbians were discharged from the military under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Currently, the goverment discharges 2 gay servicemembers A DAY under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
Clinton signed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue, Don't Harass" into law in 1993. Clinton's campaign promise to lift the ban on gays in the military transformed into the current policy, allowing gays to serve, as long as they keep their mouths shut about their homosexuality.
The ridiculous argrument for this law is that open gays would compromise military readiness, & would "create an unacceptable risk to the armed forces". I find this completly asinine. Why would it compromise military readiness? Because the straight, homophobic military men have issues with their own sexuality, & the fear they have of gay men hitting on them would preoccupy their thoughts, rendering their "military readiness"?? Seems to me that the only people with the problem here are the straight, insecure men in the military, not the gays.
A speaker at the annual SLDN dinner, Brian Fricke, a current Marine & Iraqi war veteran said," the suits on Capitol Hill who want to deny us the right to serve, force us to conceal who we are, deny who we are and yet depend on us to perform at full capacity."
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" name itself sounds benign, & it's a law that gets sold to the American public as a kind of nonchalant gentlemen's agreement that if your discreet & quiet, everything will be OK. But that's not what the law says at all. The law states that if you are open & honest about your homosexuality in the military-you can & will lose your job.
Many servicemembers who stay in the military suffer lots of harassment. Steve Boeckels was an Army officer stationed in Alaska. While there, a gay Army Private, Barry Winchell, was beaten to death in his sleep by his fellow soldiers, (yeah, the one's Barry would have dragged off the battlefield if injured) stationed at Fort Cambell, Kentucky. After the murder, Boeckels attended a Dept. of Defense-mandated information session where his battalion commander was to address the specifics of "Don' Ask, Don't Tell". Instead, he made gay jokes & implied that the deceased Winchell deserved to be dead & said that gays were inhuman. Boeckels left the Army in 2000 after submitting letters to his officer's saying he was gay.
SDLN is working to gain the support of politicians. It rewarded their Randy Shilts Visability Award to Republican Congresswoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida) for her work to support the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1059). There are 116 Congressional supporters, including 5 Republicans, that would repeal DADT & allow gays to openly serve in the military.
With the invasion of Iraq, the Israel/Palestine/Lebanon conflict, & other military action around the world, the US's need for good, qualified troops continues to grow. The military is struggling to meet it's recruiting goals & good gay & lesbian soldiers & officers continue to be discharged from service.
Retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the 1st woman in Army history to achieve the rank of 3-star General, spoke out at the dinner. She said her view of the military policy changed in the early 90's when one of the Army's best Chinese linguists submitted paperwork that he was gay & wanted to be discharged from her brigade.
Another speaker at the dinner quoted from Maya Angelou's poem "Still I Rise" saying, " You may shoot me with your words/You may cut me with your eyes/You may kill me with your hatefulness/But still, like air, I'll rise."
The SLDN is demanding equal rights for gay & lesbian servicemembers risking thier lives for this country, & is turning their silence into action.
Please support the SLDN & visit their website