Guest Feature - Taking Cover
ďDonít Ask, Donít TellĒ is an antiquated, discriminatory military policy
by Jamie Dailey -
for The Cavalier Daily
republished by the gracious permission of the author
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Bill Newcom joined the Missouri Volunteer Infantry in 1847 to serve his
country during the Mexican-American War. Something, however, seemed incredibly
odd about Bill Newcom. He was not like the other men in the unit because, as it
turned out, he was not a man. Bill Newcom was actually Elizabeth Newcom; she hid
her gender to join the military and was discharged once she was discovered
because women were not allowed to serve in the military. The story of Newcom, a
woman who loved her country dearly, seems uncomfortably familiar. Her story
reminds me of a modern story ó that of ďDonít Ask, Donít Tell.Ē Just as women
throughout the 18th and 19th centuries pretended to be men to enlist in the
military, gays and lesbians now pretend to be straight to serve their country.
Donít Ask, Donít Tell was instituted in 1993 by President Bill Clinton as a
compromise in his attempt to end the ban on gays and lesbians in the military.
The policy states that gays and lesbians are allowed in the military, but cannot
serve openly. The phrase ďDonít Ask, Donít TellĒ implies that officials in the
military cannot ďaskĒ about the sexual orientation of service members and
service members cannot ďtellĒ about their sexual orientation. The military has
the right to discharge those who reveal their homosexuality and has already
dismissed 12,500 members.
Donít Ask, Donít Tell perpetuates a legacy of discrimination in the military.
Just as women and blacks were institutionally discriminated against in the
military, now homosexuals are discriminated against in the military. The policy
feeds off of fear and ignorance. Military officials once feared women serving
alongside men for concerns that the military would turn into a huge cesspool of
sex and distraction, yet women were integrated and the world still turns.
Similarly, military officials were once wary of black people serving alongside
white people because they believed it was abnormal, yet blacks were eventually
integrated and the military remains a cohesive unit. The same arguments that
prohibited women and black people from joining the military are now being used
against gays and lesbians. If the same arguments are being employed ó arguments
that have been proven to be of ignorant origins ó it is only logical to argue
that the integration of gays and lesbians in the military would not lead to the
demise of American military strength.
If the open service of gays and lesbians would cripple military strength,
then why have the United Kingdom,, France, Germany, Israel and 25 other nations
retained cohesive militaries with homosexuals serving alongside their
heterosexual counterparts? If America is the beacon of equality and liberty,
then why does it uphold a policy that aligns America with some of the least
tolerant regimes in the world like Sudan and Iran, where homosexuality is a
This policy contradicts the concepts of American equality and liberty and has
wasted over a quarter billion dollars. Moveover, the policy discharges some of
the most qualified people from the military during a time of war. Last year
alone, the policy discharged ďeight linguists, 20 infantrymen, 16 medical aides
and one member of the Armyís Special Forces,Ē according to a Washington Post
article. It is irrational to discharge such skilled and committed service
members when they are needed most. Our military is stretched so thin that
service members like Army Ranger, Sgt. First Class Lance Vogeler was on his 12th
deployment when he was killed in Afghanistan this month. It is indefensible for
the military to discharge qualified and devoted members who happen to be
homosexual when the armed forces have dwindled to the point where it must deploy
its service members 12 times.
Donít Ask, Donít Tell is a terrible policy that must be repealed to allow the
full, open service of gays and lesbians in the military. The policy continues a
legacy of discrimination in this country and is not only an international
embarrassment to the integrity of equality in this nation, but is also a waste
of limited financial resources and manpower. Just as Elizabeth Newcom no longer
has hide under the guise of a man to serve in the military, gays and lesbians
should no longer have to use heterosexuality as a cover to serve their country.
Jamie Dailey is a Viewpoint writer for The Cavalier Daily.
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