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End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Now

New America Media, Commentary, Anthony Woods Posted: Nov 02, 2009

Editor’s Note: President Barack Obama just signed a hate crimes bill that would cover lesbians, gays and transgender people. Now, says NAM contributor Anthony Woods, the time has come to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allows gays to serve in the military—as long as they are not out. Woods is native of California, a graduate of West Point and Harvard, and a veteran of two tours in Iraq.

Ten months ago, I was kicked out of the Army. My crime? I refused to continue violating my integrity and told a superior officer I was gay. My nine years in the military, including four years as a cadet at West Point and almost two years deployed to Iraq where I was awarded the Bronze star, came to an abrupt end when the Army discharged me under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Like most gays and lesbians serving in the military - and make no mistake, there are a lot of them, I had no interest in broadcasting my private life in the barracks. I simply didn’t want being honest about who I am to jeopardize my ability to continue serving my country honorably.

My fellow members of the LGBT community are right to feel that now is the time for President Barack Obama to fulfill his campaign promise to end “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Never has public support for repealing the ban been higher, with 7 out of 10 adults supporting repeal, according to the latest Gallup poll.

While popular support is important, what’s more interesting is the clear shift in opinion and tone coming from Pentagon officials.

Last Sunday, Secretary of the Army John McHugh told the Army Times the military was ready to end “don’t ask, don’t tell.” With his statement, he joined other senior military leaders who have indicated that openly gay soldiers will not jeopardize military readiness, as opponents suggest.

McHugh’s comments are consistent with those of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen who on multiple occasions has stated the military was prepared to carry out whatever decision Congress and the president make on the policy. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has gone even further by stating a more “humane” policy should be put in place. The time for repeal is now.

The statements made by these senior leaders are reflective of the attitude of today’s military. I know this because I’ve seen it first hand, and that is why I feel so strongly that the military’s policy should reflect this reality.

Many opponents of repeal are individuals whose days in the military ended long ago or others who are morally opposed to homosexuality in any context. They consistently fail to grasp the growing cultural sensitivity and general open mindedness of a younger generation of servicemen and women. Further, they fail to recognize the tremendous contributions that gay and lesbian soldiers make on the front lines in battle or the critical skills they put to use everyday in defense of our country.

Most of those who support repeal recognize how foolish it is to spend $400 million investigating and discharging highly skilled troops who want to serve their country. This is especially mind-boggling when America is engaged in two wars. They also recognize that dozens of our allies, including the UK, Australia, Canada and Israel, have allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly with no discernable impact on readiness, unit cohesion, or morale.

At the Human Rights Campaign annual dinner in Washington, D.C., Obama again promised to bring an end to the discriminatory and outdated policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” That end will not come unless the president replaces powerful words with bold action. It is now time for the president, Congress, and our military to join with the majority of Americans who believe this policy is not only unjust but also unpatriotic.

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