31 March 2009

Marine Corps Commandant seeks counsel on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Yesterday afternoon Navy Times' Dan Lomothe and Bill McMichael posted an article here indicating that Marine Corps Commandant General James Conway is asking all of his 82 generals for their input on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ("DADT") policy. Responses are due to General Conway by 10 April 2009. The United States adopted the DADT policy in 1993.

While America's policy has been in place for over 15 years most of its allies have rescinded discriminatory policies against their gay and lesbian citizens who serve in uniform. In 1992, Australia ended its prohibition of gays in the military. The situation on sexual-orientation discrimination appears to have greatly evolved outside the United States with Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Switzerland all permitting gays and lesbians to serve in the military. Earlier this month the Philippines ended its ban.

Last July Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), the chair of the subcommittee that oversees military personnel issues in the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on DADT. Retired Sergeant Major of the Army Brian Jones testified that "allowing homosexuality in the military would cause unnecessary sexual tension and disruptions to good order, moral, discipline and unit cohesion." Jones further said "this would erode the very qualities of military service that presently appeal to potential recruits."

But retired Army Major General Vance Coleman, an African-American who joined the Army when it was segregated testified that the treatment of gays and lesbians is similar to how blacks were treated before President Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948. "I know what it is like to be thought of as a second-class citizen, and I know what it is like to have your hard work dismissed because of what you are or what you look like," Coleman said at the hearing. Coleman also said America's security was hurt because gays and lesbians were either dismissed from service or were reluctant to join, noting that five dozen Arabic linguists had been discharged under DADT.

The Navy Times article also noted that Navy Captain John Kirby, spokesman to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullin, said the Chairman has previously addressed this issue and if the law changes we'll change accordingly. "If the American people want to see the policy reviewed through their elected leadership, we'll participate in that debate," said Kirby.

If you want your voice to be heard on DADT here's a link to Congress.org where you can find information on your elected representative and send an email on DADT. And if you are a gay or lesbian person serving in America's military you can contact the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for assistance.

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