The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight

Adam Newman | Friday, February 11, 2011

History was made on December 22, when President Obama signed into law the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military. While many don’t believe in the repeal of DADT at a time when America is at war, their arguments are misguided.

Before 1993, military code banned homosexuals from serving in the military. Early in his presidency, Bill Clinton attempted to change this policy, but couldn’t push a repeal through Congress. Instead, President Clinton issued an order forbidding military recruiters from asking applicants questions about their sexual orientation. This allowed homosexuals to serve in the military only by not openly revealing their sexual orientation. However, if homosexual service members revealed their sexual orientation, they could be dismissed from the military. This policy received the name “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

President Obama made ending DADT a priority, and as a result appointed Robert Gates, (a DADT opponent), as his Secretary of Defense. While liberals wanted President Obama to repeal DADT quickly, President Obama and Secretary Gates knew that they needed the support of the more conservative military community for an effective repeal of DADT. This motivated Secretary Gates in March 2010 to create a committee of military personnel tasked with analyzing how repealing DADT would affect “military effectiveness.” On Nov. 30, 2010, the committee released a 250-page study that was based on input from hundreds of thousands of service members.

The study breaks the commonly held assumption that a repeal of DADT would negatively affect the military. The committee found that 70 percent of service members surveyed had worked alongside someone they believed to be a homosexual. Of those, 92 percent stated that the unit’s ability to work together was very good, good, or neither good nor poor. Moreover, 70 percent of the service members surveyed believed that a repeal of DADT would have a positive, mixed or no effect on the military. Based upon statistics similar to those above and the other findings from the review, the committee came to the following conclusion: Based on all we saw and heard, our assessment is that, when coupled with the prompt implementation of the recommendations we offer below, the risk of repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to overall military effectiveness is low.

No statistics are needed, however, to argue that DADT is a discriminatory policy. If someone passes the necessary tests, boot camp and are a capable service person, they should be allowed to serve in the armed forces, regardless of their sexual orientation. DADT is also a dysfunctional policy. Since 1993, 13,000 service members have been dismissed by the military due to DADT. This comes while many service members have served as many as four tours overseas because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those against the repeal of DADT argue that many high-ranking military personnel, such as the heads of the Marine Core and Army, believe that DADT should continue as military policy. While these military men are certainly entitled to their opinions, their opinions should by no means dictate policy. One interesting comparison the DADT committee drew is the repeal of DADT will be similar to the end of racial segregation in the military in the late 1940s. The committee noted that as many top generals are today against the repeal of DADT, many top generals during the 1940s were against the racial integration of the military, including WWII heroes General George Marshall and General Dwight D. Eisenhower. History has shown that the racial integration of the armed forces was not just sound policy, but the right thing to do. There is no doubt that history will render a similar verdict on the repeal of DADT.

Those against the repeal of DADT have also argued that many service member, especially in the Marine Core, would feel uncomfortable if a repeal was implemented. Surely, for some, the open acceptance of homosexuals in the military will be difficult. However, there is no reason why service members will not accept a repeal of DADT. The co-chairs of the committee eloquently noted this in the DADT study: We are both convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war. We do not underestimate the challenges in implementing a change in the law, but neither should we underestimate the ability of our extraordinarily dedicated service men and women to adapt to such change and continue to provide our Nation with the military capability to accomplish any mission.

There are many great quotes about America, but one of my personal favorites is from Winston Churchill: America will always do the right thing … after they have exhausted all the alternatives. It was heartwarming to finally see America do the right thing, and consequently show gay Americans that they still have a country worth fighting for.

Adam Newman is a sophomore majoring in finance. He can be contacted at anewman3@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the authors and not necessarily those of The Observer.