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Military Gay Ban Under Fire
by Andrew Davis

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Members of the U.S. Congress have announced legislation aimed at repealing the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' ban on LGBT military personnel, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Under the ban, enlisted personnel cannot disclose their sexual orientation to anyone.

The measure, called the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, is scheduled to be introduced in the House of Representatives on March 2 by Marty Meehan, D-Mass.

The announcement came on the heels of a release of a Government Accounting Office ( GAO ) report that analyzed the ban. The report estimates the ban has cost at least $191 million since it was implemented in 1993. However, this only includes costs connected with recruiting and training enlisted personnel brought in to replace those discharged under the ban. The analysis does not count costs associated with discharging officers or the nearly 800 specialists who were let go because of their orientation; administrative costs connected with the discharges are also excluded. Since 1993, a total of 9,488 soldiers have been let go under the policy, according to the Boston Globe.

According to the GAO, the Pentagon has fired 322 language specialists who were skilled in foreign languages that the Department of Defense deemed 'especially important,' including Arabic, Farsi, and Korean. The report, according to the Boston Globe, states that at least 54 of the fired group spoke Arabic, more than twice as many as previously thought. Additionally, more than 400 more soldiers discharged under the policy had 'critical occupations.' These positions included Army intelligence specialists and interrogators; Air Force air traffic controllers; Navy code-breakers; and Marine Corps counterintelligence specialists.

In a written reply to the results, the Department of Defense asserted that despite the loss of skills because of the ban, the military has dismissed far more servicemembers since 1993 for other reasons.

David Chu, defense undersecretary for personnel, maintained that there had been a 'low discharge rate' under the policy. Chu said that out LGBT personnel only represented 1 percent of the total number kicked out for reasons including pregnancy, drug use, or failure to meet weight requirements.

However, critics remarked that the analysis illustrates how the ban hurts military readiness when the armed forces are already stretched thin—especially when the discharged people fill jobs that the military consider to be the most relevant.

C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of SLDN, stated that the United States 'is more secure when every qualified, capable American who wants to serve is allowed to do so. ... Our priority should be defense and society. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act is the best proposal to do that.'

What may be particularly heartening for anti-ban advocates is that even some of the mainstream media is urging the military to allow openly LGBT personnel to serve. The Economist magazine recently decried anti-gay discrimination in the military, countering three common arguments used to justify the ban: that gay soldiers would undermine morale, would be bad for recruitment, and would inaccurately reflect the morals of society. The publication even urged Congress to look at the British military; four years after allowing openly gay personnel to serve, recruitment has not been affected and homophobia has significantly decreased. The Navy there is even openly advertising for gay recruits.

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