Takeoffs and landings: Silence is still a problem

May 15, 2009

by Casey Ardoin

For 16 years the U.S. military has upheld the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, a federally mandated ban on homosexuals openly serving in the armed forces. The rule distinctly ordered homosexuals to hide their sexual orientation in fear that it “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.”

Throughout its life, the policy has come under intense scrutiny for its tendency to promote isolation and discrimination, and recently the saga resurfaced to stir up news.

Last Friday, Lt. Dan Choi, a member of the New York National Guard and a graduate of West Point, appeared on CNN’s “American Morning” to openly discuss his recent discharge.

Choi, who served in Iraq and had plans to be deployed again, recently received a letter from the Army stating that he was being discharged for coming out along with 37 of his fellow West Point graduates who participated in a group called Knights Out, an organization Choi founded to protest the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. While some argue silence is necessary for the military to function smoothly, the Army’s actions certainly raise both moral and ethical questions.

Choi and his colleagues are essentially being fired for telling the truth, for standing up for themselves and not hiding who they are. But why should it matter? As soldiers they took an oath to serve and protect our country, and their dedication to our freedom eliminates any argument against their outspoken words. And who are we to take away their freedom of speech under the First Amendment?

Perhaps if some riot or disruption had taken place in Choi’s infantry after he revealed his sexual orientation there would be grounds for his discharge, but as Choi stated in a letter he wrote to President Obama and the members of Congress, nothing in his unit changed after he told his peers he was gay. In fact, he went on to state that he felt his firing was basically “a slap in the face.”

Choi is right-his firing was a direct insult. No one, gay, straight or otherwise, should ever be fired based solely on a fact about them that doesn’t remotely affect the job they’re doing.While we have certainly made strides in the last few years toward eliminating discrimination against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, there are obviously still many issues that need to be dealt with.

Regardless of your feelings on homosexuality, mistreatment and discrimination can’t be ignored. If we as a country aim at acceptance regardless of sex, religion or race, we shouldn’t continue to overlook sexual orientation.

Casey is a senior journalism major from Pineville who serves as managing editor for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to cma027@latech.edu.