‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ deservedly shot down

It’s been 17 years since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays serving in the military was implemented during the first year of the Clinton administration.

Seventeen years from now, we expect, people will wonder what all the fuss was about in 2010, when Congress voted to repeal the policy and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

The fact is, untold numbers of homosexuals already serve in our armed forces — including in combat units — without creating havoc for military missions. They simply haven’t been able to openly admit their sexuality.

That’s one of the biggest problems we’ve long had with “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It forced gay and lesbian people who wanted to serve their country to lie about their personal lives — exactly the sort of behavior the military objects to in other circumstances.

The concerns that the armed forces will suddenly become home to all manner of unsolicited sexual advances or outlandish, Corporal Klinger-type attire with the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” don’t hold water. Rules against sexual harassment and assault apply to gays as well as heterosexuals. And military dress codes were not eliminated with the repeal of the policy.

A more understandable concern is that raised by troops in front-line combat units about how gay men can be integrated into the close quarters of combat situations. Fortunately, the legislation passed by Congress over the weekend allows the Pentagon to implement the policy gradually. It can begin with non-combat units and assess how it is working there before going to combat units.

Furthermore, the secretary of defense must certify that it won’t affect our military readiness prior to implementing the policy.

But, as we mentioned, gays have already been serving in combat units — sometimes with their colleagues’ knowledge and sometimes without it. For most of their brothers in arms, the key will be how they act under pressure, not their sexual orientation. As one officer who recently returned from Afghanistan told The New York Times, “If an individual is performing well on the battlefield, people won’t care.”


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