The Washington Blade
Members of the Army Reserves and the National Guard who inform their commanders that they are gay are routinely converted into active duty status and sent to the Iraq war and other high priority military assignments, according to a spokesperson for an Army command charged with deploying troops.
The spokesperson, Kim Waldron, a civilian who works for the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga., said the active duty deployment of Reservists and National Guard troops who say they are gay, or who are accused of being gay, takes place under a Forces Command or “FORSCOM” regulation issued in 1999.
Waldron said the regulation is aimed at preventing Reservists and National Guard members from using their sexual orientation — or from pretending to be gay — to escape combat.
“The bottom line is some people are using sexual orientation to avoid deployment,” Waldron said. “So in this case, with the Reserve and Guard forces, if a soldier ‘tells,’ they still have to go to war and the homosexual issue is postponed until they return to the U.S. and the unit is demobilized.”
Waldron was referring to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays, which Congress enacted into law in 1993. The policy states that gays may serve in the military as long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation.
The article goes on to talk about the loophole that allows a policy like this to exist.
Bridget Wilson, a San Diego, Calif., attorney who specializes in military law and represents clients for SLDN, said the FORSCOM regulation does not conflict with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. She said DOD regulations implementing the policy include a little noticed loophole that has allowed commanders to retain gay service members since 1994.
The DOD regulations, which pre-date the FORSCOM regulation, were intended to address the same issue as the FORSCOM rules, Wilson said: the problem of service members who claim to be gay to avoid wartime deployment or to merely end their service whenever they wish.
According to Wilson, the DOD regulation states, in part, “Nothing [in the homosexual conduct policy] requires that a member be discharged for the purpose of avoiding or terminating military service.”
“It does not say you have to be lying about your sexual orientation,” Wilson said. As long as military officials determine that a service member is invoking the gay conduct policy to avoid service, she said, the DOD regulation gives commanders the discretion to waive the discharge policy — at least until after a service member completes his deployment.
So basically, the US military's policy is to discharge gays summarily in times of peace for "unit cohesion". But in times of war, when unit cohesion is most important, the policy shifts to retaining troops and the units just have to deal with it. It would be interesting to see a study of morale issues that come up because of failure to enforce Don't Ask, Don't Tell
in Iraq. I'd be willing to wager there would be few if any issues.
All of this is contributing to a movement to end the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in Congress. According to a Pew Research Center
poll, a healthy 58% majority of Americans would favor such a move. And that poll is on the low end of recent polling. The strength of opposition to it has been declining as well. Demcoratic Rep. Marty Meehan's Military Readiness Enhancement Act
, which would repeal the ban, already has 94 co-sponsors in the House
. The cities of Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and West Hollywood, as well as the California State Assembly have approved resolutions calling for an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I imagine the policy is not long for this world. Espcially if Democrats retake control of Congress.
I just want to add, also, that this is a turnaround for gays due largely to the increase in visibility in the mid-1990's. That increase actually had to do with a handful of changes in the perception of gays in the 1980's and 1990's. One factor was the AIDS epidemic sweeping the gay community in the 1980's that created sympathy for gay groups among liberals and increased organization among gays. A second was Clinton's failed attempt to lift the ban in 1993. It provoked a debate prominent enough that for the first time in my life, gay rights were discussed in my high school English and Government classes. And the third was the terrible crucifixion of Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming that dominated national news for a few weeks. As gays were in the news more, the entertainment media began to show them more frequently and with a more balanced portrayal. This especially influenced young people, and convinced more young gays and lesbians to come out. Today, many young people know people who are gay, and polls have shown that has a strong correlation to support for gay rights. The military is overwhelmingly young, and the attitudes in the military have changed along with the rest of society.