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Dump `don't ask' policy.

Byline: The Register-Guard

The "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy concerning homosexuals in the U.S. military was adopted in 1994 as a compromise between a previous no-gays-allowed edict and total neutrality on the issue. Although the compromise is better than the homophobic policy it replaced, it continues to deny a fundamental truth: a person's sexual orientation has nothing to do with his or her patriotism or ability to perform assigned military duties.

This issue arises again with a new report showing that the number of homosexuals discharged in 2001 from the military has reached its highest level in 15 years, and that incidents of anti-gay harassment climbed by 23 percent last year over the 2000 figures.

The report, issued by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a legal aid organization, showed that the Pentagon discharged 1,250 men and women last year for either declaring their homosexuality or engaging in homosexual activity. The number marks a 3 percent increase over 1,212 similar discharges in 2000. The numbers of discharges for homosexuality for the three years prior to 2000: 1,034 in 1999; 1,145 in 1998 and 997 in 1997.

The SLDN reported a total of 1,075 incidents of anti-gay harassment in all four service branches last year, compared to 871 in 2000. In a survey of 75,000 service personnel, the Pentagon reported that 37 percent had witnessed hostile words or actions against gays.

Another statistic is also worth noting. Women were disproportionately affected by the "don't ask" policy. Females accounted for 30 percent of all discharges of gays last year, even though they comprise only 14 percent of the total U.S. military population.

"As lesbian, gay and bisexual service members are fighting to protect our country from terrorism, they should not be denied their freedom at home," says C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the SLDN. He's absolutely right.

The "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy allows an individual who is homosexual to serve in the military as long as he or she doesn't openly declare his or her sexual orientation or engage in homosexual activity, even in private. If either occurs, discharge is automatic.

A person's sexual orientation should be no more a factor in whether that individual can carry out military duties than his or her hair color, musical preference or religion. The standard should be based on performance. Disappointingly, the Bush administration - like the Clinton administration before it, which adopted the "don't ask" policy - shows no interest in revamping or eliminating the discriminatory policy. That policy is wrong, and the president should recognize that fact.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Ouster of gays from military rises again; Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 16, 2002
Previous Article:Letters in the Editor's Mailbag.
Next Article:Springfield pragmatism.

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