Alan Ardelean’s viewpoint “`Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Protects Personal Privacy in Military” (THE HOYA, Oct. 22, 2010, A3) is a prime example of the kind of thinking that has heretofore hindered the repeal of DADT. And while I certainly respect Ardelean – a former Marine – for his service to our country, I cannot accept the arguments he has offered in support of this unjust policy.
Ardelean cannot fathom, since “most citizens who wear the uniform are not gay,” why DADT is such a focus of national debate. The simple answer is because it’s blatantly discriminatory and something unbefitting of the United States in the year 2010. It so happens that most citizens who wear the uniform are also not black or female – two groups previously barred from military service. Would we tolerate a ban on either of these groups today? While our country certainly hasn’t always treated minorities well, we’ve come to accept that it’s wrong to discriminate based on immutable characteristics such as race, gender and now sexual orientation. Being a minority – whether within the military or the population as a whole – should not lessen one’s rights or one’s worthiness to serve the United States.
Ardelean notes “most people who are against DADT are not U.S. servicemen and servicewomen.” But isn’t it sort of obvious that those individuals victimized by DADT are forced silent by this very policy? It wouldn’t be prudent for a gay service-member to say anything that might reveal his sexual orientation when the consequences are discharge. And of course gay rights groups are going to advocate on behalf of repeal; DADT is a grave injustice, forcing gay service-members to conceal fundamental truths about themselves. But let’s not pretend that it’s only gay rights groups who are opposed to DADT; many straight Americans, including President Obama, support repealing the law.
Let’s also not forget that DADT affects so many more lives than just those of the gay Americans who’ve been discharged under the policy or are currently serving in silence. What kind of message does DADT send to gay youth, for instance, too many of whom have tragically chosen to end their lives in recent weeks? With DADT, we send the message that being openly gay is somehow incompatible with a life of honor and service. DADT suggests that something about openly gay Americans makes them inherently less equal and less worthy than their straight compatriots. But it’s 2010: The only difference between straight people and gay people is the gender of the people they love. That’s it. It’s time for the military to update its policies, like it has with its weaponry already, into the 21st century.
Ardelean inquires as to where we would house openly gay service-members. With other service-members of the same gender, of course. We obviously wouldn’t house them in separate barracks and enforce segregation, which even Ardelean recognizes would pose a problem and “create a barrier between heterosexual and homosexual troops.” There’s no logical reason why gay and straight men couldn’t room together. Ardelean offers that he wouldn’t be willing to room with a gay man, but it does not follow from Ardelean’s personal attitudes that openly gay service-members are necessarily unfit to serve or to share rooms with their straight peers. If having openly gay soldiers has any impact on cohesion or living arrangements, it’s the soldiers who have a problem with it who are not fit to serve. We ought not discharge the openly gay, but rather the openly discriminatory. Being gay is not a problem. Being homophobic is.
While one’s sexual orientation is a private matter, there’s no doubt that these things come up in the military, just as they do everywhere else. I highly doubt that Ardelean or any of his straight colleagues ever concealed their heterosexuality or refrained from discussing their personal lives. Our soldiers are not automatons -they are just regular people. And people – especially when thousands of miles from home – talk about their families and their loved ones. The private nature of sexuality doesn’t mean it is something that should be barred from discussion under penalty of discharge. There’s no policy barring people from talking about their personal lives in other workplaces, and somehow they’ve managed to stay operational.
The military has discharged nearly 14,000 troops since DADT took effect, many of whom played critical roles, for no other reason than that they were born gay. I’d sure say that that’s “an obstruction to [the military’s] ability to operate effectively.” DADT fosters a culture of deceit and fear that is incompatible with the values and integrity of our military and of our nation, depriving us of capable troops in the midst of two wars.
Paul Courtney is a senior in the College and chairman emeritus of Georgetown University College Republicans.