Why ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is Bad for the Country
Yes, it’s true: Being gay in the United States means one is much more likely to host an awards show, such as the Oscars, the Emmys or the Tonys. But being gay in the United States also has its disadvantages.
Gay men and women cannot marry in 90 percent of U.S. states. Adoption by gay men and women is legally protected by only 36 percent of states. Gay men have been prohibited from donating blood since 1983. Before the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act in October 2009, 18 states didn’t include sexual orientation in their hate crimes law. And to date, gay men and women are barred from serving openly in the U.S. military.
Banning gay men and women from serving openly in the military is discriminatory, unfair to those who are willing to sacrifice their lives and blatantly un-American. Gay soldiers who are willing to sacrifice their lives to their country deserve the same rights and privileges as other worthy members of the military.
But let’s ignore the ‘discrimination’ argument this time. Life is unfair, you can’t always get what you want, not everybody plays by the rules, blah blah blah. Let’s ignore Lady Gaga’s impassioned — albeit bizarre — pleading to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Let’s extract the ‘discrimination’ factor out of the equation, because when emotions and feelings become entangled, the debate becomes a weepy mess.
Instead, let’s focus not on why DADT is bad for gay men and women, but why it’s bad for the United States.
As of May 2009, there were 1,447,095 members of the U.S. military, consisting of 548,000 members in the U.S. Army, 203,095 members in the Marine Corp, 332,000 members in the Navy, 323,000 members in the Air Force, and 41,000 members in the Coast Guard. Although some critics occasionally complain that the U.S. military has grown too large, it actually consists of only 0.46 percent of the entire population of the United States, thus making for a very elite organization of dedicated men and women. Only 0.46 percent of the entire country is willing to put his or her life on the line to protect the remaining 99.54 percent of Americans.
Despite the small percentage of the population enlisted in the U.S. military, the membership of the five military branches is as varied as America itself. One-seventh of active duty is female, 25.4 percent of the active duty is a racial minority, 55 percent of active duty members are married, 90 percent of active duty members have a college degree or higher, and nearly half are between 22 and 30 years old. Members of the military come from all walks of life, all 50 states, all races, all income brackets and all religions.
(Except for the Amish.)
If the elite members of the military represent nearly every adult demographic in the United States, then it may also be assumed that approximately 10 percent of the military will consist of gay men and women. Nevertheless, supporters of DADT believe that the religious percentage of the military will be offended by the idea of serving with the gay percentage.
But shouldn’t the military be offended by even the mere suggestion? Servicemen and women spend years away from their families, lose limbs in combat, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and some even sacrifice their lives. Are supporters of DADT actually suggesting that members of the military — some of the most intelligent and talented people in the United States — are so fragile and delicate that they cannot bear to shower with a gay man or woman?
As the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network points out on their website:
“The Pentagon reports that 75 percent of young Americans are ineligible to serve in our military because of inadequate education, criminal records or weight problems … And yet, qualified, smart, law-abiding and fit youths who want to serve are being excluded merely because of their sexual orientation.”
Since enacting DADT in 1994, over 13,000 gay men and women have been discharged from the military. While this may seem like a drop in the bucket when compared to the 1.4 million members that are currently enlisted, some of these gay servicemen and women were high-ranked officers and translators. At a time when the country is still engaged in Afghanistan, has at least 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq, and is constantly threatened by both Iran and North Korea, can we afford to discharge talented, capable servicemen and women?
The United States military is the best and most successful military in the world, but it can no longer afford the time (16 years), money ($363 million), and lives (13,000+) that have been wasted by the unnecessary policy of DADT. It’s not just bad for gay Americans.
It’s bad for the country.