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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 21, 2005

More gay linguists were kicked out, group finds

Santa Barbara, Calif.--The United States military discharged three times as many Arabic linguists between 1998 and 2004 as was previously reported, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military.

The center, which operates under the auspices of the University of California-Santa Barbara, closely follows the effect of the �don�t ask, don�t tell� policy on the U.S. military. It also studies other forces around the world, both those that allow openly gay and lesbian soldiers and those that do not.

Originally, the U.S. military said that seven Arabic translators and students were discharged under the� policy, which allows gay and lesbian soldiers to serve as long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation.

However, new figures obtained from the Department of Defense by the center indicate 20 linguists specializing in Arabic were discharged in that time frame, in addition to six who spoke Farsi, the language spoken in Iran. An additional 16 students studying Korean were discharged under �don�t ask.�

The United States in the past two years has engaged in sword-rattling with both Iran and North Korea over those countries� nuclear programs.

An additional four of the 59 students discharged from the Defense Language Institute were listed with �unknown� specialties and languages.

�We had a military language problem after 9/11 and we still have a language problem,� said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military.

�The military is placing homophobia well ahead of national security,� said Servicemembers Legal Defense Network�s Steve Ralls. The SLDN works to overturn �don�t ask, don�t tell� and advocates for LGBT military personnel. �It�s rather appalling that in the weeks leading up to 9/11 messages were coming in, waiting to be translated . . . and at the same time they were firing people who could�ve done that job.�

�It used to be this was seen as a gay rights issue, but now it�s clearly a national security issue,� said Nathaniel Frank, one of Belkin�s research fellows.

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