Military should drop 'Don't ask, don't tell'

300 dpi Mike Miner color illustration of faceless soldier with an X over his mouth; can be used with stories about gays in the military, "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Chicago Tribune 2010

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As President Obama’s first year in office comes to a close, many have analyzed what he has and has not accomplished as well as what he plans to focus on in 2010.

While the economy and the health care debate are high on his to-do list, Obama has held meetings to discuss repealing the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay service members. I say: It’s about time.

According to a recent New York Times article, the first Congressional hearing was held Feb. 2 to discuss the Pentagon’s plan to repeal the law. The 1993 law made it illegal for openly gay men and women to serve, claiming it could create an unacceptable risk and hurt morale. According to the American Forces Press Service, the law prohibits ranking officials from asking a service member about his or her sexual orientation. But the law also allows soldiers to be court marshaled, and even dishonorably discharged, for openly talking about their sexual preference or engaging in homosexual acts.

Since the law was passed, the United States military has seen more than 13,000 soldiers discharged from duty because of their sexual orientation, according to the New York Times article. Are you kidding me?

We are at war. Military recruiters are desperate to sign up new, young blood to fight the war on terror and hunt down Osama Bin Laden. But we kick out perfectly good soldiers simply because of whom they sleep with while they’re on leave? What part of that makes sense?

Of all the laws I find ridiculous, this one has always been toward the top of the list. Why should we punish soldiers for being gay? Why is someone’s sexual preference any business of the government or the Armed Forces?

If a soldier can follow orders, drive a tank, decode a secret message and shoot on command, that’s all a commanding officer should be worried about. Not whether his lieutenant prefers to hit on Frank or Denise at the bar Saturday night.

While I am thrilled the President and Pentagon officials have started the process of erasing this law from the books, I don’t understand why it was ever written in the first place. A soldier being gay, straight or bisexual has nothing to do with his or her ability to track down and shoot the enemy.

I have never had an issue with people’s sexual orientation. “Whatever turns you on and makes you happy, go for it” has always been my motto. It’s a private matter. No one has the right to say who someone else can or cannot be attracted to or sleep with. As a country, it’s none of our business.

According to the Pentagon, it will take an act of Congress for this law to cease
from existing. While Democrats seem to be on board, Republicans seem to think sexual orientation affects a soldier’s ability to do stand side-by-side with his or her fellow enlisted men and women.

One issue with repealing the law is all the rules that would have to be rewritten to include gay couples in military benefits, base housing and insurance. Why shouldn’t they get the same benefits as heterosexual couples?

Gay couples have to deal with the same stress and worry about their significant other being shipped off to a war zone and getting hurt. So why shouldn’t they have equal rights and equal protection?

Washington officials seem to forget this country was founded on the ideas of equality, fairness and the pursuit of happiness. If John is happier with Tom in his bed than Susan, so be it. As long as John is willing to defend the flag, who cares?

The idea that separate barracks and showers might have to be built to accommodate openly gay soldiers is ridiculous. To be a soldier, a person has to be at least. That makes him or her an adult. So, grow up!

We don’t segregate soldiers based on race or religion, so why would we divide them up based on sexual preference?

While I don’t pay that much attention to Washington’s daily activities, this hearing and its outcome have my undivided attention. We live in a very diverse, very open world. It’s time our military and government officials joined the party.

I greatly respect our soldiers for what they do every day. They protect and defend us. That won’t change because we find out a soldier is gay.

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