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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', But Could They Be Right?


A federal judge in California refused a few weeks ago to postpone a worldwide injunction issued last month blocking enforcement of the Defense Department’s "Don’t Ask, Don't Ask, Don't TellDon’t Tell" policy banning gays from serving openly in the military.

The last several weeks have seen much back-and-forth in regards to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. First, gay recruits may have been able to enlist, then they weren't able to do so openly. It never became possible for current enlistees to come out without risking discharge.

The legal saga the controversial policy continued on Friday as the U.S. Supreme Court declined to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Now conservatives are in favor of DADT being kaibashed. Even Senator John McCain's wife Cindy McCain is calling for an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

So should this policy be struck down?

First, lets examine why Bill Clinton enacted the policy in the first place. The policy was introduced as a compromise measure in 1993 by President Bill Clinton who campaigned on the promise to allow all citizens to serve in the military regardless of sexual orientation.

Many of Clinton’s fellow Democrats including, Senator Sam Nunn, led the contingent that favored maintaining the absolute ban on gays. President Clinton backed off on his campaign promise to repeal the ban in favor of the DADT "compromise."

Under the 1993 law, the military cannot inquire into service members' sexual orientation and punish them for it as long as they keep it to themselves. President Obama favors repealing the law but wants it done by Congress.

Supporters of the policy say that we need to screen homosexuals from our military because having gays in the barracks would hurt the morale of soldiers.  Will straight and gay troops have to shower next to one another? Will the military have to provide benefits to gay partners, and can it afford to? And then of course there remains the biggest question of all: Will gays be harassed or intimidated?"

Well, the military did something quite reasonable in light of these concerns—they asked its members. In July, the Pentagon sent a survey with dozens of questions to 400,000 active-duty and reserve troops. It asked whether they had ever shared a room or the showers with gay peers, and how they might act if a gay service member lived with a same-sex partner on base. Military officials did not say how many troops completed the survey, but at least 103,000 had done so just days before it was due, according to the Pentagon. A similar survey was later sent to military spouses.

Guess what?

Most U.S. troops and their families believe the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be dropped and don’t object to gays serving openly.

Wow. This really refutes the idea of the need to keep DADT to protect the morale of our homophobic soldiers. It appears our nation’s soldiers are more tolerant and professional than people were willing to give them credit for.

I have other problems with the policy, though.

DADT is a detriment to the U.S. military. It's led to the discharge of more than 13,000 service members. Many others have chosen not to re-enlist. We've lost intelligence officers, people with vital operational skills and translators fluent in such critical languages as Arabic, Farsi and Korean. One only has to look at the resume of Lt. Dan Choi, who was recently discharged for being openly gay, to see how DADT is hurting our military. How sad. How shortsighted.

By allowing gays to serve openly in the armed forces, the United States is playing catch-up with at least two dozen other countries. Since 1993, the Government Accountability Office looked at the track record of countries that allowed gays in the military, focusing especially on Canada, Germany, Israel and Sweden. It concluded that there had been no adverse effects on unit readiness, effectiveness, cohesion or morale.

The United States can draw lessons from those countries in how to implement a new policy, including strong leadership from the top and a uniform code of behavior regardless of sexual orientation.

Barry Goldwater, America’s iconic conservative and force behind the modern Republican Party, once commented on this issue. I think his pithy words are worth mentioning now:

“You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight. The United States Supreme Court certainly doesn't agree.

 Contact Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com