Last month, the Log Cabin Republicans filed suit against the Department of Defense to overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the United States military, calling the policy discriminatory and unconstitutional. As they prepare to revive this decade-long debate, the opposing sides must re-examine the relative importance of long-term versus short-term goals. In this case, the tolerant ideals of liberalism focus on changing the system to encourage widespread acceptance of homosexuals in the future. Meanwhile, conservatives maintain the more immediately practical view that the armed forces now function and can continue under the same policy.
The liberal view on this issue appeals to many as an effective resolution of the remaining inequalities between homo- and heterosexuals. Many advocates of this view argue that society must eliminate all vestiges of prejudice, including the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, as relics of a less tolerant era.
One may counter that the transition to open homosexuality in the forces could heighten antagonism in the ranks and handicap the protection of our nation. For instance, the 1970s elimination of separate service groups for women in the military resulted in an increase in sexual abuse. In 1996, the Department of Defense reported that approximately 55 percent of enlisted women admitted to being victims of harassment. By extension, the legalization of open homosexuality in the armed forces may cause a similar trend. Such distractions may undermine professionalism and devalue commitment to national service above one’s own nterests.
Nonetheless, the military must welcome homosexuals’ desire to serve their country. The current policy of repressive silence hardly seems hospitable. In hiding such an enormous aspect of his life as though it were a dangerous secret, how can anyone feel like he is part of a greater whole? “Don’t ask, don’t tell” hurts unity and morale: according to a 2004 study by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSMM), the policy encourages antisocial behavior among homosexuals, especially in combat. Isolation among troops has dire implications for military success. Meanwhile, the subjectivity of judging ‘asking’ or ‘telling’ leads to inconsistent enforcement, which further diminishes respect for military law.
The CIA, FBI, Secret Service, and many police and fire stations operate smoothly even while permitting open homosexuality. Be it a conscious decision or a natural predisposition, sexual orientation cannot change someone’s fundamental human capacities. CSSMM reports that “don’t ask, don’t tell” reduces the ability of homosexuals to relate to their peers and hampers their ability to serve, thus exacerbating the very problem it sets out to solve. Moreover, approximately 65,000 homosexuals currently serve in the military, defending the rest of the nation—even those who judge them unfairly.
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has become a source of discord and disunity amongst the ranks. The military should consequently rid itself of the regulation as it does of any other unnecessary impediment to efficiency.
Manuel Gonzales-Luna is a freshman in Branford College.