UNDER THE U.S. military’s current “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the Pentagon discharges well over a thousand people every year for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This policy is just the latest incarnation of an ongoing witch hunt that has been in operation since the Second World War.
The Pentagon fires three to four people every day for being gay—over 1,000 people each year. More than 115,000 gay and lesbian servicemembers have been discharged since the War. Servicemembers have had nooses placed on their racks, been beaten with pillow sacks filled with bars of soap, raped, murdered, discharged – all for being, or being perceived as, lesbian, gay or bisexual. They have had their diaries seized for information about their private lives, and been dragged away in handcuffs on suspicion of being gay.
No American is left untouched by this policy. As a nation, we lose the talents and skills of those critical for our national security. The Army recently fired seven Arabic linguists for being gay despite a severe shortage of linguists in our fight against terrorism. Taxpayers have spent a quarter of a billion dollars training replacements for gay servicemembers kicked out since “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was first implemented. Gay Americans not in the military suffer as judges, CEOs, and politicians invoke “Don’t ask, don’t tell” as justification for anti-gay rights initiatives, the Boy Scouts’ exclusionary policies, and denial of civilian job rights.
Some Americans who serve our country proudly, however, are especially at risk.
Dixon Osburn is executive director and cofounder of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in Washington, DC.