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Gay Patriot Discharges Continue Even as DADT’s End Draws Near

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Jun 29, 2011
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Discharges of gay and lesbian patriots in uniform are ongoing, even as the anticipated end of the anti-gay law from 1993, "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT), draws near. The end of the law, which Congress voted to repeal last December, is expected to take place at some point in mid-summer. Until then, however, gay and lesbian troops must still hide the truth about their personal identities, lest they be discharged under the law.

DADT says that gays may serve in uniform only as long as they do not disclose their true sexuality. But over the course of the law’s long tenure, servicemembers who did not disclose their sexuality have also been forced out when others turned them in -- sometimes after snooping through personal property such as letters.

A June 27 Advocate.com article said that the Pentagon admitted gay and lesbian troops were still being discharged.

"A total of four airmen have been discharged under the policy in the last several weeks, Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez confirmed Monday," the Advocate.com article said.

According to the spokesperson, the four servicemembers had self-identified as gay or lesbian and asked to be discharged.

But a June 27 statement from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) said that at least two others were headed for discharge unwillingly.

"Unfortunately, SLDN has a client right now who was recently recommended for discharge at a board hearing, and his paperwork is headed to the Navy Secretary," said the group’s director, Aubrey Sarvis. "He made no statement, and he wants to continue serving.

"We have another client who is having a board hearing later this week, and if this senior enlisted person is recommended for discharge, her paperwork will likely be before the Navy Secretary in short order," Sarvis added. "She, too, wishes to continue serving.

A June 28 Associated Press article reported that several Air Force servicemembers had asked to be discharged under the provisions of DADT, and had requested that the process be pursued "expeditiously," in order to avoid missing the window as DADT’s anticipated repeal draws closer.

The anti-gay law will not be set aside until the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Secretary all certify that the United States Armed Forces is ready for full integration. DADT will officially end 60 days after that certification.

Thus far, preparations for the repeal of DADT has progressed to the point that over half of those serving in the Armed Forces have received the relevant training. The AP article noted that the Pentagon surveyed military personnel last year and found that the majority -- two thirds -- anticipated few if any problems to arise as the law is retired. Opposition was more pronounced among Marines and combat teams.

But real life experience so far has shown little sign of any disruption in military discipline or readiness as the repeal training continues. Moreover, the United States is the last among its Western Allies to drop a ban on military service by open gays and lesbians, and the history of such bans being set aside in other countries shows little in the way of negative results.

"According to the Air Force, during the past month two female staff sergeants and a male 2nd lieutenant made statements identifying themselves as gay and asked to be separated quickly from the service," the AP article said.

"Air Force Secretary Michael Donley approved the discharges of the two women, and accepted the resignation of the airman who requested separation from the service," added the article.

"In a statement issued Monday, Alexander Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said it is shocking to see incidents of people ’trying to force the Pentagon to let them out of the service obligation’ because the law is still on the books," the article continued.

Sarvis made a point of emphasizing that his organization seeks to help gay and lesbian patriots who would rather stay in uniform and serve their country.

"Let me be clear," Sarvis said. "At SLDN, we have scores of clients who have been advised they are under DADT investigations. Some of these clients have between 10 and 15 years of honorable service, few made voluntary statements, and none to my knowledge has asked to be ’separated expeditiously.’ For these service members, especially, certification and final repeal cannot come soon enough."

Added Sarvis, "The continued stress of investigations and the risk of separation under DADT are real and very much imminent."

Underscoring the willingness of gay and lesbian patriots to serve was this statistic from the press release: "Last year the organization received its 10,000th call for assistance to its legal hotline."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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