Thursday, September 14, 2006

NYTimes revives some debate on military "don't ask don't tell"


Some visitors may be familiar with the fact that I got in to book writing and publishing in the 1990s because of this issue. Specifically, not just the notorious military "don't ask don't tell" policy codified into law in 1993, but the fact that the policy traces to other paradigms known from civilian life, such as my own expulsion from William and Mary in 1961 for telling the Dean of Men that I was a "latent homosexual". Some visitors are familiar with my doaskdotell website that has many of the details.

The 1993 debate brought up a lot of difficult concepts that we think of as "thoughtcrime" (or perhaps "pre-crime" as in the famous 2002 science fiction film Minority Report). That is, that a "propensity" to commit a forbidden act can be legally acted upon, although the mark has the right to "rebuttable presumption."

The other big issue was personal identity and openness. In earlier times, gay rights were defended as a "right to privacy" issue. The psychology of all of this has turned around in the age of the Internet, where openness and personal pride about one's psycholgoical goals become paramout.

The DADT policy has been challenged in court, but so far it has always lost at the appellate level. There is a long detailed history, but there are more challenges.

Today (9/14/2006), The New York Times has a story on p A12 by Lizette Alvarez, "Gay Groups Renew Drive Against 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'". In Madison, WI (not exactly a bastion of red state social attitudes) John Alaniz, Derek House and Justin Hager showed up at an Army recruiting station, announcing their sexual orientation openly. By law, the recruiter had to turn them away.

Military recruiters no longer may ask recruits their sexual orientation, but recruiters may given them a policy statement to sign that they understand the DADT policy. The newspaper article goes on to render an effective summary of the debate today. The military is practicing essentially a backdoor draft with forced return tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, even with National Guard enlistees. Today, the military needs quality recruits, and might be able to take someone with a record when it cannot take an openly gay person with no record. The military is often the most effective career opening opportunity for minorties and the economically disadvantaged. And sometimes the Policy invites persons who do not want to stay in the service to declare that they are gay just to get out. About 85% of those discharged had declared their sexual orientation openly, according to the story.

The article mentions the major legal services organzation dealing with this issue: the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. I have been a supporter since 1994, and once a year SLDN has an "end the witch-hunts" fundraising dinner (now in May).

Other resources in include the Center for the Studies of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and Stanford's Law Library on DADT, Service Academy Gay and Lesbian, Alumni, and the Military Education Initiative.

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