By STEVE CHOICE
Imagine being fired from your job because you’re the wrong race. Or the wrong gender, age or religion. Maybe that’s not a total stretch to contemplate, since we know discrimination still exists.
But further imagine having the force of federal law support your firing. That’s what happens every time a U.S. service member gets discharged from the military for openly homosexual conduct or words.
The time to repeal the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has come.
Here’s how the policy works: The military can’t ask its members about their sexual orientation, nor conduct investigations into the matter.
Service members are then shielded from involuntary separation as long as they don’t openly declare that they’re gay or engage in homosexual conduct, such as marrying someone of the same gender.
As a sergeant in the Army Reserve, I’ve worked on cases for the government in the Judge Advocate General’s Corp (the legal section of the Army) where a service member was discharged based on homosexual conduct.
I’ve lived in the barracks with other soldiers. I’ve also been deployed to Baghdad for a year. That’s enough experience to formulate a general opinion of the people I’m in the military with.
What I see is that soldiers by and large wouldn’t be that bothered by the thought of serving with gay people.
Somewhat surprisingly, the policy isn’t really a topic of discussion. Then again, why express an opinion that may be unpopular with a superior officer if it’s not really necessary to bring it up?
The issue’s already been decided for us. Nothing gained in being the one that goes against the grain, right? Especially if the policy doesn’t affect you.
But it does affect people. Figures show that more than 13,000 service members have been discharged from the life and career they chose since the law was enacted.
As for “going against the grain?” A 2006 Zogby International poll shows that 73 percent of military personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays.
That figure jibes with what I’ve observed in a much less scientific way. I base my opinion on the attitudes and beliefs displayed by the people I serve with.
The American military draws its members from the American people. More and more, America is becoming a country that’s accustomed to living and working with openly gay people. Our country has become far more accepting of gays than in the past. It’s just not that big a deal anymore.
It’ll be an adjustment when gays are ultimately allowed to serve in the military. However, I don’t think it’ll be too long lasting or have any significant negative effect on morale, unit cohesion or mission readiness.
Since we have one of the most flexible societies on the planet, I don’t foresee any major upheaval when it happens. In Army terms, to adapt to a new situation is to “adjust fire.” That’s what military members will quickly do.
Service members don’t join to get away from gay people, and the military isn’t some seething mass of anti-gay sentiment. If it were, one might argue that the ban needs to remain in place for the security of the nation.
The point is that it’s not. It’s not in countries where gays serve openly and it’s not here. The military I know isn’t hung up on gay people. It’s time to do what’s right and let everyone in.