Wednesday, October 20, 2010

U.S. Continues to Grapple with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

There has been a barrage of activity in the past few days on the government’s third war: Barring openly gay service members from remaining in the military, or from joining its ranks.

It remains unclear what the final outcome will be, as some actions favored gay rights, but an appeal by the federal government to keep its hateful, discriminatory, homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in place has not yet been resolved.

Because the messages were beyond mixed, a significant gay rights group advised gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and trans-gendered people who are in the military, or who are trying to join, to keep their sexual orientation private.

Today, it was expected that the Obama administration would appeal a recent federal judge's order barring the military from enforcing its ban on gays and lesbians serving openly.

Any government challenge would have to go before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California.

Late yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips in California denied the government's request for an emergency stay of her order barring the military from expelling openly gay service members. Her ruling was a huge victory for gay-rights proponents.

The ruling came as the Pentagon has begun advising recruiting commands that they can accept openly gay and lesbian recruit candidates, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The guidance from the Personnel and Readiness office was sent to recruiting commands on Friday, according to spokeswoman Cynthia Smith.

The recruiters were told that if a candidate admits he or she is openly gay, and qualify under normal recruiting guidelines, their application can be processed. Recruiters are not allowed to ask candidates if they are gay as part of the application process.

The notice also reminded recruiters that they have to "manage expectations" of applicants by informing them that a reversal of the court decision might occur, whereby the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy could be reinstated, Smith said.

Groups representing gays and lesbians have warned against coming out to the military because the policy is still being appealed in courts.

One group, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, sent a statement out yesterday reiterating the concern.

"During this interim period of uncertainty, service members must not come out and recruits should use caution if choosing to sign up," SLDN Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in the statement. "The bottom line: if you come out now, it can be used against you in the future by the Pentagon."

Judge Phillips' ruling on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" stemmed from a lawsuit by Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group, challenging the policy.

Former Army Lt. Daniel Choi, an Iraq war combat veteran who challenged "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and was discharged. Also late yesterday, Choi moved to rejoin the military. "I'm here because I want to serve my country," he said.

"In the recruiting station. Apparently I'm too old for the Marines!" he said in a tweet. "Just filled out the Army application."

Choi said he told recruiters he was gay and that there was no reaction or delay in the enlistment process. He indicated he would complete his paperwork today and that he did not care what rank he would assume.

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of Log Cabin Republicans' San Diego, California, office, tried yesterday afternoon to be reinstated by the Marines.

"Once a Marine, always a Marine," said Rodriguez-Kennedy, a corporal who was honorably discharged in February 2008.

He served three years of a four-year term. "It's a feeling of not having completed a full tour," he said.

Recruiters told him yesterday there were no current slots and they would call him in January, Rodriguez-Kennedy said. One option is to join another branch of the service, but Rodriguez-Kennedy said he might speak with Marine officers or get legal help.

Reinstatement would allow him to keep the corporal rank and resume benefits.

Rodriguez-Kennedy, 23, served as a provisional military police officer in Iraq in 2007. He said he was open to new responsibilities. "I love the Marine Corps," he said.

The U.S. has been tearing itself up over this issue for years, along with gay marriage. I believe that the current trend of ever-increasing anti-gay hate crimes is partly a reflection that both issues are closer to becoming reality.

I am a bi-sexual. If I wished to serve my country, who shares my bed should not enter into the equation. Period.

It truly remains a mystery to me why equal rights to the gay, lesbians, bi-sexual and trans-gendered communities is such a big deal. The Constitution is clear that such prejudice is unlawful discrimination. Sadly, the issue has become politicized by conservative religious groups and others so that the Constitution has in effect been co-opted.

Apparently, these anti-gay folks see me, and those like me, as a threat to our society. For me it is the other way round – it is their hate and bigotry that is the real threat to our democracy.

— The Curator

No comments:

Post a Comment