Gays in the military have been fighting an uphill battle since 1982 when The Department of Defense officially put in writing that “homosexuality was incompatible with military service.” Between 1993 with the Clinton era compromise “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and the 2011 repeal of the ban, 13,000 service members were disgracefully discharged. Why? They engaged in homosexual activities while in the military or told someone about their sexual preferences. Gay men and women who were willing to put their lives “on the line” but not live life in the closet were fired at the alarming rate of approximately 1,000 per year.
How does the Repeal Affect Gays in the Military?
The lifting of this 18 year-old ban this week affects an estimated 48,500 lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who serve on active duty or in ready reserve in the U.S. military, while an additional 22,000 are in standby and retired reserve forces.These 70,500 service members make up 2.2% of the total force according to the most recent findings from the Williams Institute at U.C.L.A. in Los Angeles.
“No One Should Have To Die In the Closet”— Mayor Sam Brown of Portland, Oregon
DADT violated equal protection and first amendment rights of service members. Put more simply by Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen in a February 2010 speech in favor of repeal: “it was fundamentally everything we stand for as an institution to force people to lie about who they are just to wear a uniform. We are better than that.”
The American Public Knew Better
Despite Republican senators Orrin Hatch and John McCain’s opposition to the repeal, 57% of U.S. citizens supported an end to the military ban on gays as far back as 1992.
What’s Good for Gay Service Members is Good for the Military
The Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which repealed DADT, could save $200 million and add 41K troops to the U.S. military. A recent Cornell University survey confirmed that keeping DADT would have been a bad choice for the military. Gay and lesbian study participants who were asked to conceal their sexual orientation performed 20% worse on spatial reasoning tests and 50% worse on physical endurance tests as compared to those who were not given this instruction.
Serving Openly, but not Equally
While this week’s repeal is a step towards dignity and respect for gays in the military, the fight for equal rights is far from over. The next battle for homosexuals is to convince the Pentagon to give federally-financed benefits to same-sex couples in the military. Federal DOMA or Defense of Marriage Act prohibits health insurance, campus housing, certain death benefits, legal counseling, to name a few of the 100 benefits denied to gay couples in the service.