You may have heard the news yesterday that the Supreme Court has turned down a challenge to the U.S. military’s troubling Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. This excellent Washington Post article analyzes the possible politics behind the move. While the article hints that President Obama may eventually replace the policy with a policy that would be more fair to our LGBT military personnel, that change now seems farther away than we’d like it to be.
Here are some talking points worth sharing, should you find yourself in a debate about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:
* A July 2008 poll by The Washington Post/ABC News found that 75 percent of Americans favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military – up from just 44 percent in 1993.
* The poll found 64 percent of Republicans in favor of repeal. A 2006 Zogby poll found that 73 percent of military personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays.
* The military has discharged almost 800 mission-critical troops — and at least 59 Arabic and nine Farsi linguists — under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the last five years.
* Most allied forces working alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq allow individuals to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation. Studies of the militaries of Australia, Israel, Great Britain and Canada have shown open service to have no effect on enrollment or retention.
* The total number of countries allowing openly gay service is 26. The US and Turkey are the only two original NATO countries that still have bans in place.
In this critical moment in history, with the United States engaged in two wars, it’s imperative for the military to have the best and brightest personnel available. Sexual orientation shouldn’t figure into the equation, and yet our military maintains an antiquated set of standards to “deal with a problem” that a growing majority of military members don’t see as a problem.
We believe that LGBT military members should be allowed to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being discharged. There’s currently proposed legislation — the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (MREA), proposed by Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California, and co-sponsored nearly 150 fellow members of Congress. We encourage you to write to your Representative, and Senators, as well as to President Obama, to urge passage of the MREA and a much-needed resolution to the inadequacy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
To echo the plea that Second Lieutenant Sandy Tsao, a member of our military who was dishonorably discharged after coming out to her superiors as gay, made to President Obama, “help us to win the war against prejudice so that future generations will continue to work together and fight for our freedoms regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.”