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'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Tougher on Minorities, Women

5 years ago
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Here's one thing you probably know about "don't ask, don't tell," the Pentagon policy on gays and lesbians in the military. As my colleague Patricia Murphy reports, a bill to dismantle this outdated policy is wending its way through Congress.
Here's one thing you probably don't know about the 17-year-old law that says, essentially, gays and lesbians can remain in the military as long as no one knows they are gay:
The ban has disproportionately affected minorities and women. The latest data, compiled by the gay rights group Servicemembers United from Defense Department numbers, show that in 2008, minorities made up 45 percent of troops discharged under "don't ask, don't tell," while minorities were 30 percent of the service. Women accounted for 34 percent of the discharges but comprised 14 percent of the military.
USA Today, reporting the study, contacted Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith who said the military does not know why there is a disproportionate number of discharges for minorities and women and, under the ban, can't look into the question.
Gays Rights Don't Ask, Don't Tell ProtestNonetheless, I was shocked to find out that service women are more than twice as likely to be discharged under DADT, based on the Servicemembers United's numbers crunching. And for persons of color, the rate is 1.5 percent. Our armed services are not yet gender-blind or color-blind, although it is a goal the services are working hard to meet. But I am still curious as to why the discharge rate is so disproportionately high for women. I posed the question to Servicemembers United Executive Director J. Alexander Nicholson III, and he responded this way:
"Ultimately we do not know exactly why women are disproportionately impacted by the 'don't ask, don't tell' law, but we do know that this law is often used as a tool for sexual harassment against women and sometimes even a tool to enable sexual assault. Often times women are accused of being lesbians if they do not succumb to the sexual advances or the romantic interests of others, and this sometimes leads to unfair targeting of women under 'don't ask, don't tell.' It should also be noted that racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately discharged under 'don't ask, don't tell.' All of these facts fly in the face of the claims that this law is working. A law that impacts women, and especially women of color, at twice the rate of their presence in the military is clearly not working."
So let me get this, er, straight -- servicemen threaten servicewomen with "outing" them as lesbians unless they succumb to the men's sexual advances? What kind of "Through the Looking Glass" parallel universe have the Armed Forces become under DADT? And why is our volunteer, body-strapped military firing otherwise perfectly credentialed soldiers because they happen to be gay or lesbian? The question was debated last week on the House floor as members voted to approve the legislation that could ultimately dismantle DADT. The movement to end DADT comes at a time when the military is having an especially hard time filling critical slots in the armed services:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that of the 13,500 members of the military who have been discharged under "don't ask, don't tell," more than 1,000 filled critical occupations, such as engineers and interpreters.
Despite this, passage of a similar bill will face opposition when it goes before the Senate later this month.
My life experience teaches me the persons most threatened by the presence of gays and lesbians are people who feel threatened in some way by their own sexuality. Instead of supporting an archaic law that deprives the armed services of critical force members, why don't Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other senators opposed to repealing DADT sponsor a mass therapy session for service members threatened by gay and lesbian colleagues? Obviously, that will never happen. But it would be nice if macho military men could get over their fears of serving with gay men and women. I guess facing their own psychological demons head on, even in our enlightened age, might be too much for them.

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In fiscal 2007, 2,688 reports of sexual assault involving service members as subject and/or victim were filed. The Gender Relations survey, conducted by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), was based on a sample of 23,595 respondents and found that 34 percent of active duty women and 6 percent of active duty men indicated experiencing sexual harassment, while 6.8 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact. There are approximately 1.4million active duty members in US combined armed forces. That said, its apparent the majority of incidents go unreported. Those majority of men and women who have been discharged under DADT, though victims of a discriminatory policy that should be abolished, were individuals that outed themselves. The "don't ask" part of the policy indicates that superiors should not initiate investigation of a service member's orientation in the absence of disallowed behaviors, though credible and articulated evidence of homosexual behavior may cause an investigation. Violations of this aspect through persecutions and harassment of suspected servicemen and women resulted in the policy's current formulation as don't ask, don't tell, don't harass, don't pursue.

June 19 2010 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm inclined to think that the majority of gays in the military do not want to tell or be asked.

June 03 2010 at 5:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

How about we just leave it up to the majority ?
Now thats a novel idea !

June 03 2010 at 12:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I crindge as I read this story, not because of the topic at hand but it is the insulting fashion in which the author used to describe those of us who don't condone the homosexual lifestyle.

I proudly served in the military, to this day I oppose gay soldiers and their lifestyles being forced upon straight soldiers. You usually have no choice in who you share close quarters with in the military and it is immoral to insert any kind of sexual tension in those areas of operation. I believe that it is why the male and female soldiers are housed in segregated barracks as we speak.

"But it would be nice if macho military men could get over their fears of serving with gay men and women. I guess facing their own psychological demons head on, even in our enlightened age, might be too much for them."

I became enlightened every Sunday morning.

June 02 2010 at 7:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I'l say it again, the U.S. Military is not the private social club of gays or straights. It is serious work. Quit the social engineering, it doesn't help anyone.

June 02 2010 at 3:12 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Many use the "I'm Gay" just to get out of the Military that can't stand being in. I knew several people that used it when I was in.

June 02 2010 at 2:33 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Why are we shocked by this? Women and minorities have always been the easiest target. There is not logic behind it.

June 02 2010 at 9:03 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

I severed 20 years in the U S Navy and was a supervisor for 15 of those years. I only had one (1) occasion that a sailor under my supervison was removed from the military under the DADT ACT.
I was division officer of a unit when a sailor walked in my office and said "I want out of the Navy". I asked the sailor why? The sailor told me, "I want to go home and I am tired of being overseas". Of course the military does not work like that. You can not just go home. I asked the sailor if there is any thing I could do to help with a problem that the sailor had. (the military has outstaning couselers and support groups that can handle any type of mental,finacal or physicle problems. The sailor told me no. I called in the sailors supervisor and asked if there was a problem that I should Know about? The supervisor said that all he knew was the sailor wanted to talk to me.
About a week later the sailor once again was standing in my office requsting to return home and still wanted out of the Navy. Before I could say anything the sailor put ten (10) pictures on my desk that showed the sailor and another sailor ingauged in shocking behavior. I had no choice but to turn over the pictures to the commanding officer. This might explain some of the reasons people use the DADT and the numbers are high.

June 02 2010 at 7:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

gotta love the media!!....they're nothing if not consistent...this headline is straight off of page one of their playbook, it reminds me of the old joke when the world comes to an end the front page of the New York Times will read: "world coming to an end. women and minorities hardest hit".

June 01 2010 at 11:46 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

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