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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    Military was clearly ready to end DADT

    The military marked the one-year anniversary of the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell policy" last week. The most remarkable thing about the adjustment to the new tolerant attitude was how unremarkable it was.

    The acceptance of openly homosexual individuals into the military has gone much smoother than earlier landmark diversity events - the racial integration of military units and the acceptance of women into the service academies.

    Made with perhaps the best of intentions during the administration of President Bill Clinton, the DADT policy was an awful one. The policy was intended to end witch hunts in the military that had the intent of rooting out gays and lesbians. Homosexuals could serve, but only if they kept a significant part of their very natures secret.

    It put both these individuals and those who worked alongside them in a terrible position. Military personnel swore oaths to act honorably, yet DADT forced homosexuals to act deceptively for fear of revealing the secret. Soldiers, sailors and pilots were told to work as a team, shoulder to shoulder, but if they heard a fellow member of their unit talk openly about being gay they faced a dilemma - adhere to the requirement to report a military violation or stand by a comrade in arms. Officers assigned to emphasize the importance of diversity and tolerance in the military were acutely aware of the inconsistency of that message when the most they could say about homosexuality was, "Be quiet about it."

    Most in the military seem relieved to move past these double standards. Gay and lesbian military personnel no longer have to be guarded with every comment they make. They can just be themselves.

    A study co-authored by professors from the military academies and the Marine Corps War College found no broad negative results due to the policy shift. In fact the study found evidence that repeal improved trust among troops.

    This is not to say there have been no problems. Some whose personal and/or religious beliefs are that homosexuality is wrong have expressed frustration at being forced to work and live in proximity with soldiers that make them uncomfortable. But even those who disagree with allowing gays to serve openly have, for the most part, treated fellow soldiers or sailors respectfully, the study found.

    At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London a gay-straight alliance - the Spectrum Diversity Council - has formed. What a change from just a few years ago, 2006, when Cadet Bronwen Tomb, a lesbian, had to leave the academy after another cadet turned her in. She became an advocate in the campaign to end the intolerant DADT policy.

    The military needs to address one continuing injustice. The Pentagon does not recognize same-sex couples when allocating benefits such as medical coverage, travel allowance and housing. This is particularly egregious in states, such as Connecticut, that recognize same-sex marriages. The Defense Department is studying the matter. It should treat all couples equally.

    Repeal of DADT is a success. There will be no going back.

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