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In Defense of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

February 23, 2010

Ross Sevy
In Defense of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has always been a controversial issue, but one that is poorly understood by the public. Let me first say that I firmly believe all Americans deserve equal freedom, and I do believe homosexuals deserve to have civil unions and all the liberties that they entail. This is not an issue of civil liberties. This is an issue of national security. And "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is not a ban on gays from serving in the military, but a restriction of certain behaviors, which is well within the purview of the armed forces. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", or DADT, was passed in 1993 by a Congress that had solid Democratic majorities in both the House of Representatives, 258 Democrats as opposed to 176 Republicans, and the Senate, 57 Democrats opposite 43 Republicans. Bill Clinton had just won his first term as president. This was not an extreme right-wing government that put DADT in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994. The Congress expresses in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994 that military service is not a right and that,

Military life is fundamentally different from civilian life in that--
(A) the extraordinary responsibilities of the armed forces, the unique conditions of military service, and the critical role of unit cohesion, require that the military community, while subject to civilian control, exist as a specialized society; and
(B) the military society is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs, and traditions, including numerous restrictions on personal behavior, that would not be acceptable in civilian society.

The last part is crucial in understanding why DADT was enacted. Military society is not civilian society. The rules that govern it must be different because the military is expected to do things the public isn't, like fight a war. I went to my friend, teammate, and United States Marine, Eric Yingling, to inquire more into the strictness of military life. He stated:

"During my time on the east coast, we were required to go out shirts tucked in, belt, and slacks/nicer jeans at all times not in uniform. You couldn't have ear piercings, tattoos visible above the neck or other 'individualistic' qualities. This is all for unit cohesion and stomping out the 'individual.' The military doesn't want individuals nor does it really care about what you think-- it wants people to get the job done. They have their rules, and everyone-- gay, straight, or other-- needs to abide by them and conform. There is no preferential treatment because you are straight or gay. There are even rules to how straight couples should act in public, and especially while in uniform. They are there for a reason, and it isn't to ban gays. They are allowed to join, and serve (for the same selfless reasons anyone would want to serve, right?) but they don't get a special marking on their dog tags next to blood type that says 'gay' or something. Just as I don't get one that says 'straight.'"

Eric was also kind enough to point out that the military enters into the sexual lives of all its personal, he pointed out a passage from the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ, that prohibits a certain type of sex.

925. ART. 125. SODOMY (a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense. (b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

The military culture is much different then mainstream society. In civil society, a person is not allowed to be restricted from work because they are disabled or have a defect, but in the military they must carefully chose their recruits. I know from personal experience that the United States Military is extremely selective in accepting recruits. I applied to West Point out of high school, earned a Congressional recommendation, but was denied by the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board, or DoDMERB, because I had corrective heart surgery. Later, I again tried to serve by earning a full scholarship from Army ROTC, but was again prevented from serving my country by DoDMERB due to a problem I had been born with. Eric had a similar story where the U.S. Army was delaying in allowing him to join because when he was twelve his doctor prescribed him a temporary inhaler (2 weeks use) to deal with bronchitis. Despite never having "any breathing issues or anything at all related in the 6 years following," the U.S. Army was hesitant to recruit.

One must understand that DADT is not a ban of homosexuals serving in the military, but a rule requiring discretion in certain areas of all military personnel's life to keep unit morale and cohesion at peak levels. If the military was not concerned with the morale and cohesion of its soldiers, wouldn't that just be a little, well, queer?

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