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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 23, 2007

'Don't ask' discharges have plummeted during Iraq war

Washington, D.C.--Military dismissals under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy plummeted in 2006, leading LGBT advocates to accuse the Pentagon of ignoring its own rules in favor of recruits for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2006, 612 people were dismissed under the policy, compared to 1,227 in 2001.

“It is not appropriate for the U.S. military to tell lesbian and gay Americans that they are worthy of fighting and dying in a war zone, but unworthy of serving their country on the home front during peacetime,” Servicemembers Legal Defense Network spokesman Steve Ralls told Reuters.

Rep. Marty Meehan of Massachusetts introduced a bill to repeal “don’t ask” and allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military, but the Pentagon claims that its policy has not changed.

“Any suggestion that somehow we were implementing the policy different five, ten years ago than we are today, there’s just no basis in fact for that,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

The release of the figures coincides with another statistic, this one from the Williams Institute, a think tank associate with the University of California-Los Angeles.

The Williams study theorized that, in addition to around 1,000 discharges under the policy each year, the military lost another 3,000 personnel annually because service members did not reenlist because of the policy.

“If the military needs more troops, it makes more sense to keep the estimated 65,000 well-trained and seasoned lesbian, gay and bisexual soldiers they already have instead of lowering standards to recruit convicted felons, as a recent report from the Michael D. Palm Center shows they have been doing,” said study author Gary J. Gates. “Allowing lesbians, gay men and bisexuals to serve openly could go a long way to meeting the president’s directive to add 92,000 troops in five years.”

After the September 11 attacks, the various branches of the military issued “stop-loss” orders freezing discharges for a wide variety of reasons. However, the “don’t ask” policy was not among them, allowing the military to cut loose personnel for being gay while it was halting many disciplinary and medical discharges.

 

 

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