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Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Debate Goes On

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The debate for Don't Ask, Don't Tell continues with the New York Times opinion piece on 3 May 2009, titled "Room for Debate: In the Barracks, Out of the Closet". It seems as if those who are against this law being repealed do not value the efforts to assist them in more fully understanding the impact it has on our national security, the dignity of our service men and women who are being forced to either get out or hide behind a lie, and the value gay members have and are providing to the nation. Instead, we continue to hear the same old arguments of unit cohesion, special rights, the shower issues, and the outright lies about the majority of Americans being in favor of retaining the law.

The article featured several opinions. One opposed, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, Robert Maginnis, wanted to protect combat effectiveness. He thinks gays serving openly would "polarize and fragment that critical trust and confidence" which is a key element to combat effectiveness. From his statements, it would appear he is in favor of closeted gay not being able to be truthful to their fellow service members and that would not cause any harm to the trust and confidence of the units. He goes on in ambiguity about the Army's surgeon general's opinion that the gay lifestyle would increase health care costs. How? This is so unclear as to warrant complete disregard to the comment except to say it would appear on the surface to be a subtle subliminal message. He cites a letter sent to the President by over 1,000 retired flag officers "expressing their concern that lifting the ban would undermine recruiting and retention." Were any of these officers in the service during the 1957 DoD Crittenden Report, the 1988 Defense Personnel Security Research and Education Center (PERSEREC) Report, the 1999 PERSEREC Report, or the 1993 DoD RAND Report? All of the reports and every study done by Congress or by DoD have repeatedly stated and consistently shown that there is no threat to national security, gays are as fit to serve in the Armed Forces as any American, and successful integration of openly gay personnel into the services can be attained without detriment. "The burden of proof that lifting the ban would do no harm rests with those who would change the policy," Maginnis states. DoD and Congress have already done that. Maybe he should try again?

Another misguided soul is Elaine Donnelly, not the actress but the founder and president of the Center for Military Readiness. She was on several commissions under Republican presidents and it appears her focus was to provide servicewomen a voice for not being in combat. Her focus has now turned to gay issues, especially since attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), that organization that has been in the news lately with Rush Limbaugh bouncing up and down like a yoyo. Her thoughts about repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell amounts to her belief that would be "essentially assigning special status to homosexuals" and the need to have "constant 'diversity training' to overcome normal human desires for modesty and privacy in sexual matters." Does she know that the military regularly conducts diversity training to the members of the Armed Forces and including some meaningful guidance on sexuality would not amount to any great change. What does she mean by all this "normal desires for modesty and privacy in sexual matters"? For a woman who fought so hard for servicewomen being banned from combat stating "Combat commanders will have to cope with significant personnel losses, distractions, and social turmoil...far higher rates of medical leave and evacuations, primarily due to pregnancy" and "...even more volatile will be sexual attractions, personal misconduct, and accusations of same." She thinks women in combat equally as bad as gays in the military. She babbles on about discharging women serving the Armed Forces for pregnancy and the weight standard violations being greater issues than gays serving openly. What a Michelle Bachmann moment.

A professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Brian Maue, wrote, "An openly gay military would be the heterosexual equivalent to forcing women to constantly share bathrooms, locker rooms and bedrooms with men."  "Gays in the Shower, Oh My" by Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, Retired shows how inane this lame argument really is. For information, Admiral Steinman is the highest ranking military person to come out of the closet. His essay laughs at Professor Maue's assertion that straight servicemen and women are too modest and shy to be in close quarters with gays when all along they have been showering, sleeping, and being in close contact with gays since the beginning of our Armed Forces. The real issue is that a gay service person has been showering and sleeping with straights all their life. What would be different now?

Senator Jim Inhofe, OK-R, wants to polarize the issue through partisan politics. He writes about "the levels of professionalism and standards the military sets" with complete disregard to the fact that gay men and women are serving their country with honor in spite of the fact that they are forced by law to pretend they are not gay. He thinks most Americans agree with Section 571 of the 1994 National Defense Authorization Act:

"The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability."

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As a note, simply stating the words "I am gay" is considered a homosexual act, but so would attending a church service [Metropolitan Community Church, for example], having a beer at a [gay] bar, watching a parade [gay pride, of course], or other such innocent things. No engagement in physical contact is required to be guilty. Sen. Inhofe also wants to ignore the 2008 poll by the Washington Post/ABC News finding that 75% of Americans do want repeal of the law he sights. And if you count only Republicans, the majority to repeal is there too.

The President could essentially put an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell by executive order; however, this would only be a temporary solution to the problem. Through executive order he could stop the finding that a service member was gay, but it would remain law which would take Congressional action. The President could also send to Congress a military budget which did not include a provision for funding Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Then again, Congress could simply change the law.

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After 26 years retiring from the Navy, then another 14 years as a psychotherapist retiring again, I have finally found time to be more active.

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