I have no strong opinion on homosexuality. In the immortal words of Seinfeld - not that there's anything wrong with that. It's perfectly fine if that's what you're into. I'm all for legal unions that provide the rights of people of any gender combination to create a family of two or more - though I won't debate with anyone on whether that should be called marriage or not. Semantics, people! I'm also not much of a political thinker, so you won't often hear me pontificating on social issues. However, I was taken aback when I heard a story on NPR about enforcement changes being implemented by the military to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
Under the policy, commanders are prohibited from questioning members of the armed services about their sexual orientation. However, a basis for discharge exists if "the member has said that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or made some other statement that indicates a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts." There are guidelines governing investigation into such matters, but according to information at Solomon Response.Org the Services continually violate the basic rules designed to make investigation and enforcement of this policy humane.
The new guidelines raise the level of officer authorized to conduct investigations into allegations about a service member's sexual orientation and tightens the rules about what constitutes "credible information" and "reliable persons" on whose say-so those investigations can undertaken. But here's what really got to me: in a move of supreme humanity by the military, the investigation can no longer use confidential information from conversations between a service member and their lawyer, therapist, priest, pastor or doctor against them. Wow. So before this new guideline, that was perfectly acceptable?! I find this horrifying.
Although I've never had any real opinion on it before, I started to consider the don't ask, don't tell policy in general. I've come to the conclusion that this policy is basically state-sanctioned acceptance of sexual bigotry. I mean, can you name one good reason why gays and lesbians who want to serve their country should have to suppress information about their sexual orientation? Distraction due to sexual tension introduced between service members if the knowledge is public? Um, holds no water - we've had women serving for years. If a person, gay or straight, behaves sexually inappropriately, it should be dealt with - but that seems a weak excuse against prohibition of any openly gay person serving in the forces in the first place.
What I've realized is that this policy essentially protects the delicate sensibilities of homophobes serving in the armed forces. Heaven forbid that we confront them with the knowledge that some of their battalion members - people they may like and trust - are (gasp!) homosexual. Heaven forbid that aligning that knowledge with their experience serving with a gay service member could potentially open their eyes and divest them of their prejudices.
It's not like we can afford to be choosy here. Not many people are beating down the government's door to sign up for a tour of duty. To ask some of the brave men and women who do volunteer to deny who they are just seems unfair. It's time to abolish this antiquated policy.
[Quietly stepping off my soapbox now...]