It’s time to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

When more than 70 percent of active-duty and reserve military personnel serving this country say there would be no adverse consequences from repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military, it’s clear the Clinton-era policy has outlived its usefulness.

The 70 percent figure comes from a survey of troops and their families conducted by the Pentagon this summer and fall. It was part of a study the Pentagon has conducted regarding the policy that prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military — but allows them to serve, with a wink and a nod, if they don’t say anything about their sexual orientation.

The full Pentagon report is to go to President Barack Obama Dec. 1. And Congress may try to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the lame-duck session that begins Monday.

The policy should be repealed. It counterproductive, and it condones lying, the antithesis of approved military behavior

The survey’s findings dovetail with what we’ve heard from young military personnel currently serving and those recently discharged. Young members of the military know who most of their gay colleagues are, and they don’t care. They don’t cause morale problems or discord.

Furthermore, eliminating “don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t mean that homosexual members of the military would be suddenly free to grope or harass their fellow servicemembers. The same laws against sexual assault and harassment that apply to heterosexuals apply to gays in the military.

Also, as a group of Log Cabin Republicans who filed suit over the policy have noted, there is no evidence that gays make any worse — or better — sailors, soldiers, airmen or Marines. They simply want the opportunity to serve their country as others do.

No wonder the Pentagon study concluded, according to The Washington Post, the military can lift “don’t ask, don’t tell”  with minimal risk to the current war effort. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also supports eliminating the policy.

A separate part of the report, based on feedback from gay personnel who kept their identities secret, shows they don’t want to be treated as a special class or category within the military.

The greatest opposition to repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” came from members of the U.S. Marine Corps. Some 40 percent of Marines questioned in the survey oppose repealing the policy. So does Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

But they represent a minority, and one that appears to be decreasing. There was far greater opposition to gays serving in the military back in 1993, when President Bill Clinton established the policy.  There was also considerable opposition to “don’t ask, don’t tell” at the time.

It’s unclear whether there will be enough votes in Congress to repeal “don’t, ask don’t tell,” either during the lame-duck session or when the new Congress convenes in January. If not, there is a pending federal court case through which one federal judge has already ruled the policy unconstitutional. And President Obama has the authority to reverse a policy one of his predecessors created by executive order.

One way or another, especially given the results of the Pentagon survey, it seems the days of “don’t ask, don’t tell” are numbered, and gays will be able to serve as proudly and honorably as their heterosexual colleagues.


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