Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

January 13, 2011

by Mary Timmons, STAFF REPORTER

For years, the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law raised questions of whether homosexuals and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military. With a repeal of the policy currently in the works, spotlight remains on the controversial subject. 

 According to the CNN website, former President Bill Clinton first announced the policy at a press conference Jan. 29, 1993, to ensure that all citizens would be allowed to serve in the military despite their sexual preferences. The law dictated that military applicants were not to be asked about their sexual orientation. 

“The issue is whether men and women who can and have served with real distinction should be excluded from military service solely on the basis of their status,” Clinton said, “I believe they should not.” 

The issue of an enlisted person’s sexual preference and DADT has affected the military careers of many members since the policy surfaced 18 years ago.

According to Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, since 1980, more than 32,000 active duty service members have been separated on the basis of homosexuality or homosexual conduct under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and its predecessor policies; of these more than 13,000 occurred since the law was enacted. 

Taylor Cates, a junior biology major, said he participated in ROTC for two years but is no longer a member.

“At the time it was created it seemed like a decent solution, but that was years ago,” Cates said. “Now it seems like just a way to brush the whole ‘gays in the military’ issue underneath the rug and out of sight instead of directly addressing it. Sort of like a ‘if I don’t see it, then it’s not happening’ type of thing.”

DADT may have ensured that military members are not to be questioned about their sexual preference, but it did not prevent them from being discharged if it became known.

Cates said one of his close friends was dismissed from ROTC when it was exposed that he was a homosexual.

“I have friends who are in the military and are not allowed to be open about their sexuality,” Cates said. “Instead of actually being able to say ‘this is who I am’ they are simply not allowed to say anything about it or be asked about it.”

When a member of the military is discharged for exposing his or her homosexuality, it has an effect on others as well. 

Cates said DADT affects everyone in the military, not just homosexuals and lesbians.

“When one of your fellow service members is discharged for nothing more than being who they are, to me, it feels like you’re losing a brother simply because they have brown hair instead of blonde or because they’re too tall or some other less-than-feasible reason,” Cates said. “It can destroy morale, easily.”

He said allowing homosexuals to serve openly is not going to deter the military from its primary objective.

“The main priority of the military is to protect the constitution and Americans,” Cates said. “Having the freedom to love whoever you want to is something that the military protects, in my opinion. It’s one of the last professions that instills a great sense of honor and camaraderie.”

Christopher Bivens, a sophomore kinesiology major, said he thinks the law is outdated, and even if it had not been repealed, something would have needed to be done. 

“I feel that every American should have the right to serve their country and defend freedom,” Bivens said. “I believe that DADT is a form of discrimination.”

Bivens said he looks past the surface of a service member’s sexual preference and sees the importance of the job he or she does. 

“I haven’t personally seen anyone affected, and I don’t feel that DADT affects me because the people in my unit including myself see soldiers for the duty they are called for and not their sexual orientation,” Bivens said.

Jonathan Brown, a former Tech student and member of the U.S. Navy for 2 1/2 years, said DADT does not affect him directly, but it does affect the people above him, which will eventually make it his business.

 “It doesn’t affect me directly, but when there are major issues within the Department of Defense it trickles down the 500 links above me in my chain of command in the form of a survey or online training,” Brown said.

Like Cates, Brown said he believes serving in the military is an honor as well as an American right.

“I personally believe that homosexuals have just as much a right to serve in the military as anyone else,” Brown said. “African Americans don’t have to pretend to be white; girls don’t have to pretend to be boys; and homosexuals shouldn’t have to pretend to be straight.” 

According to the Fox News website, Dec. 28, Obama signed for the repeal of the long-standing policy at the U.S. Department of Interior. 

With the promise of “change” during his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama has done just that by putting an end to DADT.

“No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie or look over their shoulder in order to serve the country that they love,” Obama said. “Our people sacrificed a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.”

E-mail comments to mnt005@latech.edu.