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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘Don’t ask’ hurts U.S. forces

The military’s “”Don’t ask, don’t tell”” policy has always been a major talking point. The policy has come marching back into the news as a result of President Barack Obama’s promise to repeal the policy during his State of the Union address.

“”This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,”” Obama said in his speech on Jan. 27.

Since then, several high-profile individuals have also spoken out against the policy, including five-star general Colin Powell, former Vice President Dick Cheney and current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military Adm. Michael G. Mullen.

Supporters of the policy say the policy is an effective compromise to a complex issue and question the timing of the debate.

At a Feb. 2 meeting of the Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the Pentagon’s intention to conduct a yearlong review of the policy.

“”At this moment of immense hardship for our armed services, we should not be seeking to overturn the ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,”” Arizona Senator John McCain said to the committee.

“”This would be a substantial and controversial change to a policy that has been successful for two decades,”” McCain said.

“”Don’t ask, don’t tell,”” a federal law, was passed under President Bill Clinton in 1993 and bans openly gay or lesbian men and women from serving in the military, though it does not ban closeted gays from service. If struck down, it would mark the largest upheaval of military policy since 1948, when former President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order that forced the desegregation of U.S. Armed Forces.

“”It’s a really bad law,”” said Linda Thomas, a retired Air Force Colonel who sits on the board of Tucson’s Wingspan Community Center. “”It’s time for it to go.””

There are only four ways in which people can be discharged from the military for violation of “”Don’t ask, don’t tell:”” By marrying a member of the same sex, trying to marry a member of the same sex, admitting they are homosexual or getting caught in a gay act.

According to statistics furnished by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, over 13,000 members of the military have been discharged since the law was passed in 1993. In 2007, 627 military members were released, 46 percent of whom were women. These figures represent a sharp decline from 2001, when “”Don’t ask, don’t tell”” discharges peaked at 1,273 for the year.

The United States is currently one of three militarily active members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that bans homosexuals from openly serving in the military. The others are Greece and Turkey, though Russian law also states that only “”well-adjusted homosexuals”” are permitted to serve “”in a normal capacity.””

“”I think it’s ridiculous,”” said Jai Smith, a sociology junior and co-director of the UA Pride Alliance. “”Why should anyone endure questions of patriotism because of who they are? It shouldn’t matter as long as you put your country before everything.””

Aimee Leon, a member of the Tucson Air National Guard and seven-year veteran of the Navy, is currently being processed out of the military for violation of the policy. Leon admitted to base commanders that she was gay in September 2009.

“”I finally decided, after years and years, that I’m not going to limit myself and my morals just so I can receive a paycheck every month,”” Leon said. “”I won’t stand for it.””

A spokesperson from the UA Recruitment Officers Training Corps’ Wildcat Battalion, who declined to give his name, said that he had no knowledge of any gays currently serving in ROTC at the university, nor did he know of any time when “”Don’t ask, don’t tell”” had forced a dismissal from within the Wildcat ranks.

“”The policy is federal law,”” he said. “”We follow the law. If they change the policy — if they change the law — then we will follow that as well.””

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