The bad: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy, which has been unfairly removing gay U.S. military members from service since 1993, is still alive and kicking. The good: President Obama called for a repeal of the policy earlier this year, and it’s currently under review. The really good: Instead of waiting for the review and likely super-lengthy repeal process in Congress, the Department of Defense is already making it more difficult for service members to be fired based on their sexuality.
Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an announcement this morning, stating new guidelines for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” As of today, only top ranking officers can remove an enlisted member from the military on the basis of sexuality, and all third-party information which could launch an investigation into someone’s sexual practices must be provided under oath.
The hope is that these new rules will make it a lot harder for people to target colleagues out of vengeance, and that it will ultimately reduce the numbers of people unfairly discharged and stigmatized because of this policy.
I’m encouraged by today’s developments, but would hardly call these amendments a “more humane” approach to the policy, as Gates did earlier today. Everything about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”—making people lie about who they are and who they love—is inhumane. These new guidelines are definitely a step in the right direction, but the policy still mandates secrecy, deceit, and shame. Like most children in this country, I was taught to think of the men and women in our armed forces as brave and proud. I’m looking forward to the day when our government is brave enough to let military personnel be proud of who they are—regardless of how they define themselves or their sexuality. Hopefully, our administration will do the right thing.