Copyright © 2001 Lambda Publications Inc. All rights reserved.
by Bob Roehr
The Pentagon has begun to prevent key service members from leaving the military under a procedure known as "stop-loss." Similar orders were issued during the Persian Gulf War and when forces were called up for action in Kosovo.
President George W. Bush authorized Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to initiate the action, who, on Sept. 19, in turn delegated that authority down the chain of command to each of the service chiefs to implement as they see fit. The result is several different policies rather than a single unitary policy.
The Air Force was first out of the gate on Sept. 24. Their stop-loss policy applies to all active duty, Reserve, and Guard forces and takes effect on Oct. 2. It freezes for one month all discharges and separations unless a waiver is issued. The policy will be reevaluated during that period and will be modified or extended.
The Navy is implementing a limited policy that applies to an estimated 10,500 sailors in 11 specialties. It will take effect on Oct. 10.
The Army is not implementing a stop-loss program at this time, while the Marines expect to announce their policy later this week.
"Service members should continue to act as if 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' ( DADT ) is still in effect," said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ( SLDN ) .
The main effect of the announced policies on DADT is that they are likely to reduce or eliminate the option of service members declaring that they are gay as a way to be discharged. As usual, the needs of the service will prevail.
Some heterosexuals as well as homosexuals have used a declaration as a way to avoid service, while other homosexuals have used it when they have felt that their physical safety was threatened by antigay harassment.
"This shows the abject hypocrisy of the DADT policy," said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force ( NGLTF ) . "Civil rights are not a matter of convenience. If gays are qualified to serve in times of national crisis, what possible argument can be made that they are not qualified to serve openly in time of peace? Excepting bigotry, there is none."
Kevin Ivers, spokesman for Log Cabin Republicans, said that they have been working for months within the White House "to build support for a major relaxation" of DADT until it become politically possible to reverse the law.
"If gay Americans are to serve in our military in this national emergency, and we want to and we should, then we must serve on precise parity with heterosexual Americans," said Frank Kameny, who has served as an advisor on such issues for decades. "That is what America is truly all about. Anything less or different is unacceptable and will not be accepted."