Dan Choi –- a West Point graduate, officer in the Army National Guard, and Arabic linguist– has been getting a storm of media attention after he was told by the military that he will be fired from his position because he came out of the closet as a gay man. Yep, Choi “told” that he was gay and now the military is firing him for homosexual conduct because it “negatively affected the good order and discipline of the New York Army National Guard.” Choi has gone public with the military’s decision and one hopes that his impeccable military record will bring the uselessness of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to light.
Since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was put in place in 1993 under the Clinton administration, 12,500 gay men and women have been dismissed from the armed forces for not being heterosexual. The law is still in place under President Obama, who during the election stated that he would repeal the homophobic policy which he said was not only a waste of money, but a waste of highly qualified people who are in the military. Granted, Obama did just recently come into office, so he might not have seen repealing the policy as very high on his list of priorities.
According to a note he sent this past January to woman who was fired from the military for being a lesbian, Obama wants to change the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy but he believes it will “take time to complete, partly because it needs congressional action.” However, according to Aaron Belkin at The Huffington Post who originally broke the story, Obama has the power to stop investigations into service members’ sexuality. It wouldn’t repeal the law immediately, but it would stop its implementation and, as Belkin hopes, would make it “much easier to get rid of the law at a later time” when people see gays and lesbians serving in the military openly and without problems.
I shouldn’t have to tell you why this all matters. It should be plainly obvious that firing gay men and women based on their sexuality and not on their performance or military record is disturbingly bad policy to keep in place. In his most recent interview with Rachel Maddow, Choi stated that many of his military peers–from subordinates to people who outranked him–came up to him after he came out and told him that they didn’t care that he was a homosexual. According to another statement Choi made on a West Point LGBT alumni website, there are 65,000 other “selfless” homosexuals serving our country in the military. Do we want to lose that many service men and women? Can we even afford to lose them when we are fighting two wars?
So this is the big question everyone is asking: why hasn’t Obama taken action against this policy yet? He can sign an executive order stopping investigations today. The longer he waits the more trust he is going to lose among gays, lesbians and their supporters.
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