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On Diversity: If issues like “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” still exist in our country, how can I call myself a proud American?

Column by Kelsey ’11

On September 21, 2010, Republicans in the Senate filibustered to block a defense bill that would have effectively repealed the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (DADT). Originally passed by Congress in 1993, the law allowed for the discharge of openly serving gay, lesbian, or bisexual service members. The new legislation in question proposed to repeal DADT upon completion of a review of its potential impact on armed forces, examining “military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and recruiting and retention of Armed Forces,” as stated by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

The real question is, why is it that we live in a country in which those who are openly gay and only interested in serving our country are being discharged from the military, while the homophobic men and women who are so consumed by prejudice and thus incapable of doing their jobs get to stay? It doesn’t seem logical to abuse the rights of people who are willing to defend this country to the best of their ability, out of sympathy for the small minded few who insist that they cannot do their job next to  a gay man or woman.

Why are the human rights of American citizens being compromised to appease the discomfort of homophobic service members? The history of DADT reveals that is not only bad policy but a clear example of unfounded, government-mandated hatred and prejudice. In 1996, Marine Kevin Blaesing was discharged after a Navy psychologist turned him in for homosexual conduct, just because he asked questions about sexual orientation. It was not until 1999 that the Navy eventually removed guidance telling military health care providers to report gay patients from their online General Medical Officer Manual. This clearly demonstrates that gay servicemembers were singled out and their right to doctor-patient confidentiality violated.

Recruits with records of bomb threats, vehicular homicide, and sex crimes have received merely conduct waivers, while men and women who are qualified, well-educated and law-abiding citizens are being turned away from the military because they refuse to hide a part of themselves that no human being should be asked to hide. The right to love and to do so openly is no affront to one’s work ethic or ability to serve their country. The fact that gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women still have the desire and the drive to serve a country that so often treats them as second-class citizens is a testimony to how much they deserve to be in the military.

As a Marlborough girl, I think it is so important to question what it means to be a proud American and how that meaning may be impacted by the fact that people we will work with, play with, and love are not allowed basic human rights in this country. How am I supposed to call America my home if it does not protect and provide for me and the people I share my world with?