Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let's Hear It For The Boys (and Girls)! Honoring Our LGBT - and Straight Ally - Veterans

This Veterans Day, we're honoring and celebrating our LGBT veterans (and our straight allies), who have served and protected our country. This is especially noteworthy since the armed services have a history of discrimination against gay troops, culminating in the current decade-and-a-half old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy.

In 1993, President Clinton suspended the existing Department of Defense policy which banned gay personnel from military service. However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and influential members of Congress vehemently opposed the President’s attempt to permanently lift the ban. This led to six months of intense Congressional and Administration discussions and hearings on the issue. The end result was the infamous "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" law.

Under DADT, the military would not inquire about the sexual orientation of current and future service members. The law also said that gay men and women would be allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces unless they declared they are gay, attempted to marry a person of the same sex, or engaged in homosexual conduct. Service members who were discovered to be homosexual would be subject to dismissal.

DADT policy has failed to live up to its intended goal of serving the best interests of the military while respecting the privacy and dignity of its gay servicemembers. Approximately 13,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight servicemembers have been abruptly fired from their jobs with the U.S. military as a result of the policy. DADT has been consistently misunderstood, misapplied, and grossly abused, and the policy now functions in a state of arbitrary enforcement that is inconsistent with the needs of the military and with the principles of sound public policy.

Servicemembers United has released new data showing that racial and ethnic minorities constituted an unusually large percentage of discharges under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008. The full press release can be found here.

There is, however, great hope of change coming:
DADT is a wasteful, discriminatory policy rooted in bigotry and ignorance, but we can - and will - end it. In the meantime, take this day to honor your LGBT servicemembers.

(GLAAD has a media kid of Veterans Day ideas and resources. HRC and Servicemembers United are sponsoring the Voices of Honor tour.)

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