Recently, lawmakers failed in an attempt to eliminate the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the United States military. Since the policy was first enacted in 1993, more than 13,000 gay U.S soldiers have been discharged for not being heterosexual. In keeping this policy in place, the military will continue to ban homosexuals from service at a staggering rate. Denying gays the rights enjoyed by heterosexual citizens across the country is discrimination, and goes entirely against the United States Constitution. It’s shocking that the majority of our senate actually supports such an unjust policy. Do other nations stand by these same practices? Are openly gay citizens in other countries allowed to serve in their military? And, if so, can the United States truly claim to be “the land of the free, and the home of the brave”?
According to a list compiled by the University of California, Santa Barbara, there are many countries where openly gay citizens can serve in the armed forces. In fact, there are twenty-five countries in the world that do not enforce a ban on openly gay soldiers. Can you believe we claim to provide freedom and equality unequaled by any country across the globe, yet there are twenty-five nations offering more liberty than we’re willing to give? It’s not like these nations are small, desperate places we don’t know either. Of those twenty-five countries, several are our allies and contemporaries.
The United Kingdom is our closest ally, and a contemporary to whom we are often compared with. Until about ten years ago, the U.K had a ban in place prohibiting soldiers from being openly gay. Lawmakers, however, recognized the ban as unjust, unethical, and unnecessary. Also, it was apparent that a soldier’s effectiveness could not be determined by whether or not he or she was heterosexual. After lifting this ban, it has become compulsory for all British soldiers to participate in equality and diversity training. During this training men and women are introduced to such values as “Respect for Others,” and “Appropriate Behavior,” to help eliminate any possible discord. Also, the military in the U.K have implemented additional laws protecting homosexuals and transgender soldiers from harassment from fellow soldiers, to ensure a comfortable, safe environment for all. Whether these programs have worked or not cannot be said for sure, but according to the Ministry of Defense there has not been any major fallout amongst the soldiers, or lack of camaraderie, as the United States military expects would happen here.
Even more progressive is France. The French do not have any law or bill protecting gays in the military, but have also never had a ban in place. For citizens of France the “issue” is not an issue at all. According to Associatedcontent.com, “Some French military spokespeople have hinted at their openness by poking fun at Americans, quipping that the French policy is ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Care’.”
Among the other U.S contemporaries to not enforce a ban are Spain, Italy, Germany, Australia and Canada. And, if that’s not embarrassing enough, there are countries in Eastern Europe that were under Soviet rule less than twenty years ago, but now have a fully diverse and accepting government and military. These are places that existed under some of the harshest, most scrutinized conditions. Yet now, without judgment or contempt, they offer full opportunity for gays and straights to serve side by side, openly, in their armed forces.
With so many nations worldwide allowing for equality in their armed services, the United States government should be able to see that they are truly behind the times. More importantly, the lawmakers voting against the ban should take a moment to listen to the citizens of our own country. Recently, a woman named Margaret Witt was dishonorably discharged from the military for being gay. After pressing charges for being unjustly discharged, the court ruled in her favor, granting her reinstatement. According to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), a gay soldier is considered to be an impairment to the military, siting such reasons as damaging unit morale and unity. The judge ruling on the case declared that without proof of such accusations, the officer could not be legally discharged without honor. This ruling has been called “The Witt Standard”, and has become a beacon of hope for other gay soldiers who are unjustly discharged from the armed services. Furthermore, fellow officers testified on her behalf, supporting that openly gay soldiers are accepted by their heterosexual peers. This might also suggest that ending DADT now would not suffer any negative fallout amongst the troops, as is believed by many DADT supporters.
As a strong believer in equal rights, and the freedom that our country stands for, it frustrates me to see our government struggling over the DADT issue. Our country has passed laws and bills to eliminate discrimination over the years. We are told that minorities are protected by equal rights laws, and fair act policies. To stand by those standards and still deny openly gay citizens to serve as soldiers is hypocritical, embarrassing and shameful. It’s time for our government to truly bring equal rights to our country. The United States must rise as the “home of the brave” and join the twenty-five other lands of the free across the globe.