During his state of the union address on January 27th, 2010, President Barack Obama reasserted his intention to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with the following words:
We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we’re all created equal. We must continually renew this promise. This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.
I have been an Active Duty Army officer for almost nine years now and I agree with the President that this policy is not necessary. I can understand how individuals outside of the military might support this policy. I understand the “practical” argument about intermixing gay individuals with straight individuals. These challenges are very similar to many of the challenges we have overcome with intermixing female with male Soldiers. The military has implemented specific regulations pertaining to females in order to maintain “good order and discipline.” Perhaps unique regulations pertaining to gay Soldiers should also be implemented where necessary.
In fact, senior military leaders have already started discussing these issues in a plan to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. The Washington Post reported on this effort on February 2 in an article entitled, Military scaling back ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ The article cites the following important discussion points: “Among the issues to be addressed by the group: whether gay soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will face any restrictions on exhibiting their sexual orientation on the job; whether the Pentagon will be obligated to provide for their domestic partners; and whether straight military personnel could be compelled to share quarters with gays.”
As a female Soldier, I’ve grown to understand the importance of the military regulations pertaining to professional boundaries in relationships and appearance. I think the military can come up with similar regulations for gay Soldiers in order to maintain a professional image on the job while not requiring that Soldiers have to hide who they are.
Perhaps what those outside the military do not see is the fact that the U.S. military is actually one of the most progressive organizations in the world when it comes to fair treatment and acceptance of all types of individuals. Military regulations are very specific about professional conduct and zero tolerance of discrimination. The military fosters a culture of acceptance; the military provides equal pay for equal work; the military is innovative, flexible, and adaptive because that is our job. We can do any mission and we never take no for an answer. I find it puzzling when some individuals attempt to argue that integrating openly gay individuals is “too hard.”
The fact is, the military has been a pioneer in maximizing the available talent pool of our country. People are diversely talented and have a lot to offer regardless of their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. If we do not take advantage of the entire talent pool, we are denying ourselves the ability to reach our fullest potential as an organization. The military is still a selective organization, of course. There are criteria in order to be eligible. But to eliminate an entire population of people from consideration limits the available talent pool.
Gay Soldiers have served with distinction in our ranks regardless of whether their sexual orientation was known by their fellow Soldiers. Soldiering is hard work and Soldiers respect a teammate that contributes to the mission regardless of their background or other personal characteristics. Soldiering breaks down the barriers society builds around race, gender, sexual orientation and any other personal factor you can name. The military culture is not to blame for lack of integration of openly gay individuals. Let’s do it now; we can handle it.
There’s a lot more to say on this topic and I understand that many may still disagree with allowing openly gay individuals to serve. I hope this discussion will continue and I am interested to hear the opinions of others on this subject.