One of the most progressive, yet highly controversial policy changes currently being discussed regarding the military is the repealing of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law. In 1993 Congress passed the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy. Don’t ask, don’t tell (DADT) is the common term for the policy restricting the United States military from efforts to discover or reveal closeted gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members or applicants, while barring those that are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from military service. These restrictions are mandated by federal law Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654) the policy prohibits anyone who “demonstrate(s) a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” from serving in the armed forces of the United States. This is a hot button issue because of the intense emotions and opinions it evokes on both sides of the argument. The opponents of repealing DADT argue that it will undermine the morale and discipline of the armed forces, thus degrading and subverting the military cohesiveness which is essential to maintain a superior fighting unit. Proponents for repealing DADT counter that the law should be repealed because firstly, gay soldiers have always been part of the Armed Forces since its inception and the military unfairly and arbitrarily administers DADT.
Secondly, the law violates the civil rights of gay soldiers. Thirdly, the law fails in its original purpose in protecting gay soldiers from being outed, harassed, and injured. And fourthly, our present day military cannot afford to lose any more qualified and highly trained personnel. When we analyze and investigate the arguments for the repealing of DADT, we find very compelling reasons for doing so.
DADT prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the United States Armed Forces. In the first reason for repealing DADT, opponents of DADT argue that openly gay soldiers serving in the military will have an injurious and debilitating effect on morale, but as we research the historical beginning of the first American military force, we find that is not true and if it was not for the efforts and contributions of gay soldiers, we would have lost the war to England and the United States would have never came into being. Randy Shilts’ book “Conduct Unbecoming: gays and lesbians in the U.S. Military” supports this very fact. It states “Even before the armed forces of the United States were formally organized, gays were bearing arms for the yet unborn nation. The United States might have never become a nation, in fact, were it not for the services of one particular gay general in the first difficult years of the American Revolution. In 1777, the rebellion was going badly. General George Washington made a dashing figure on horseback and was revered by his troops, but he had little background in the art of military drills and training. Thirteen disparate and mutually suspicious colonies had contributed soldiers for what were, in effect, thirteen different armies. Though all fought under the fraying banner of the Continental Army, they were not yet one unified and disciplined force. The army desperately needed training, and in Paris, Benjamin Franklin plotted to supply the one man he believed could save them: Baron Frederich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben, one of Europe’s leading military prodigies.” According to Randy Shilts, “Steuben was the son of a Prussian army officer of high enough rank to be able to secure King Frederick William I as godfather for the infant.” Through this association he was able to secure an appointment as an aide to King William II, who was a notorious gay ruler (he banished all women from his court) and was also one of the most brilliant and pre-eminent military strategists in Europe. King William II’s military genius transformed Prussia from a weak nation into one of the most powerful countries in Europe. King William II then trained 13 hand picked officers and personally instructed them in the fine arts of war; Baron Steuben was one of these thirteen. In paraphrasing Randy Shilts, when Steuben arrived at Valley Forge, he realized that The Continental Army was on the verge of collapse. The army had no uniformity or discipline. Some soldiers drilled in the French style, some in the English style, and others in the Prussian style. Steuben immediately set about to correct this problem. He began writing a manual on the instruction of drilling and taught the concepts to the men which was unheard of because, like the British Officers, American officers felt that it was beneath them to drill the men, but not Steuben, and this zealousness endeared him to the soldiers. Steuben was so meticulous and passionate that when his men poorly performed in training, he would swear at them (as most present day drill instructors still continue to do). And because of his limited English vocabulary, he had his two aides teach him better English profanities to inspire and motivate the men. He acquired the reputation as a real and dedicated soldier and not an effete stereotype. Shilts goes on to say “In three days time, George Washington was so impressed with Steuben’s progress that he ordered Steuben’s training to be extended to his entire command. No general in the Continental Army would do any more drills, he added until they had Steuben’s specific instructions.” Two days later, the whole army at Valley Forge was drilling under Steuben’s guidance.” Members of the model brigade became the drill masters who trained others, who in turn became drill masters who trained others as they had been trained. Five weeks after the first drill, Washington appointed Steuben as the First Inspector General of the Army. Six days after that, Congress commissioned him a Major General. A year later, Congress enacted Steuben’s “Regulations for the Order and Discipline for the Troops of the United States.” Then Randy Shilts puts Steuben’s contributions into historical context and significance. He says, “His impact on the revolutionary cause is incalculable. Some historians have counted Steuben along with George Washington, as one of only two men whose services were “indispensable” to the success of the Revolution. When the American cause was won at Yorktown and Washington issue his congratulatory order, Steuben was one of only three commanders he singled out for praise. In 1783, General Washington’s last official act as Commander-in-Chief was to write a letter thanking Steuben. As Colonel Alexander Hamilton later wrote, “Tis unquestionably due to his efforts we are indebted for the introduction of discipline in the Army.” After Von Steuben’s magnificent and legendary contributions to the Revolutionary cause one would think that the nascent American military would see the value in allowing gays to serve openly in the militia, but not so, because at the time Von Steuben was transforming our woefully undertrained and under-disciplined army into a victorious battle ready militia, General Washington was approving a court-martial and subsequent discharge of a Lieutenant Frederick Enslin. Lieutenant Enslin was charged with sodomy and had the dubious distinction of being the first gay soldier to be discharged “with infamy” according to Randy Shilts.
The second argument for repealing DADT is that this very law and the present Military mistreatment of gays violates their civil rights and confers upon them second class citizenship. There is a direct correlation of the mistreatment of gay soldiers to the manner in which blacks and women were mistreated by the government in the past. This was a painful and shameful period in our nation’s history, in which a great many of our nation’s citizens were denied the right to share in America’s opportunity and largesse simply because their skin color was different or their chromosomal markers read XX instead of XY. It was argued that desegregating the Armed Forces would harm it irreparably- It did not! It was also said that allowing women into the military would be equally as destructive-it has not! Proponents for repealing DADT feel confident that the same positive result will be forthcoming when gays are allowed to serve openly.
The third argument for repealing DADT is that the law is a blatant failure. Despite the so-called legal protection that is supposedly offered to gays: meaning the right to live and serve “closeted”, gay soldiers are still be outed , harassed, and discharged by military homophobes ,who have resorted to going through gay soldiers’ private emails, and invading other areas of their personal life to acquire sensitive information to destroy their professional lives. And the majority of these hapless gay soldiers are military professionals who love the service and have outstanding professional records, which leads me to the fourth and final argument for repealing DADT, which is we cannot afford to lose any more qualified military professionals. Due to our active participation in two wars at present, our Military is precariously stretched thin. We are critically undermanned. Military re-enlistment quotas have suffered so dramatically and drastically that the military has now lowered the moral requirements to join the armed forces. The Military will now accept and allow felons and other societal undesirables to serve our country, but will not allow, and will unswervingly and self-destructively vilify, ostracize, and discharge exemplary outstanding gay soldiers because their only crime is to be lovers of the same gender. In pursuing this unjustifiable vendetta against gay soldiers, we have wasted over 340 hundred million dollars in training them then prosecuting and discharging them. And our military is all the weaker for it.
Now is the time to stop this insanity and end this hypocritical policy of duplicity and paranoia which has made us the laughingstock of the civilized military world. Many other progressive and enlightened nations such as: Britain, France, Spain, Israel, and the Netherlands have integrated their Armed Forces with openly gay soldiers and have not suffered any noticeable measurement of decreased inefficiency or poor morale. In order to revive and restore our fragile overstressed and overworked military, we must rehabilitate it. We must realize that the strength of America is the diversity of it. Many gay women and men contribute enormously to our great country, and they do as well in the military. I believe that we can empower them to do more if we remove DADT. If we remove the atmosphere of fear of discovery and harassment, then we can strengthen our armed forces and improve the quality of life of those heterosexuals and homosexuals who both serve. French philosopher Voltaire, a contemporary and compatriot of Steuben our first gay general remarked, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come!” And the time has now come to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell!
Author’s Website: WWW.TERRYANGELMASON.COM
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