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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 24, 2006

New Congress will consider repealing 'don't ask, don't tell'

Washington, D.C.--The likely head of the House Armed Services Subcommittee, Rep. Martin Meehan of Massachusetts, said that he will hold hearings on a bill to repeal the military�s �don�t ask, don�t tell� policy.

Meehan is a front-runner to assume control of the subcommittee when the Democrats take over Congress in January.

�We will have hearings, and then we can have an honest dialogue with members of Congress,� he told the Boston Globe. �I believe, and have always believed, that once people see the facts, it will become clear that this is a policy that actually hurts national security and hurts the military.�

In the 12 years between 1994 and 2005, the military expelled an average of 924 personnel per year for violating the policy, although an undisclosed number of those were the result of anonymous tips. At least 800 of the over 11,000 dismissals have been personnel with �mission-critical� skills.

There has been a great deal of publicity around the dismissal of gay or lesbian linguists from the military under the �don�t ask, don�t tell� policy, especially those fluent in languages used in the Middle East.

�The policy of �don�t ask, don�t tell,�--and don�t translate--is especially damaging,� said Rep. Barney Frank, one of the few openly gay members of Congress and a supporter of the repeal effort.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Army discharged an Arabic linguist who was the target of an anonymous email outing campaign.

The hearings will consider the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal �don�t ask� and allow lesbian and gays to serve openly, as they do in many U.S. allied nations. It was introduced by Meehan in 2005 and is sponsored by 121 members of Congress.

�Would you rather have a felon than a gay soldier? I wouldn�t,� said Capt. Scott Stanford, a National Guard commander who returned from Iraq in June.

There is concern that bringing up the repeal effort could cripple the new Democratic majority. When the issue came up early in President Bill Clinton�s first term, the fights between the administration and the Pentagon were intense--resulting in the �don�t ask� policy, which later became law.

�You don�t want it to be �Democrats against the military,� � said Michael O�Hanlon, a defense specialist with the Brookings Institute. �People don�t like the military being the laboratory for these sorts of things. This is not the same kind of civil rights issue as racial integration.�

However, there have been few problems in 30 other nations where LGBT people are allowed to serve openly. These include 15 of the NATO allies such as Great Britain, Germany, France and Canada, as well as Israel, regarded as one of the world�s most effective militaries.

 

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