Opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding the service of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals in the U.S. armed forces is gaining momentum — this time from within the military community.
Marking the 14th anniversary of the implementation of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” 28 retired generals and admirals signed a letter late last month calling for repealing the policy.
According to the letter, as many as 65,000 gays and lesbians serve in the armed forces out of a total of about 1.4 million people in all branches.
Approximately 12,000 service members have been forced to leave the service due either to being denounced by other service members or for refusing to hide their sexuality.
The letter pointed out that other countries, including Britain and Israel, allow gays and lesbians to openly serve and stated, “our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion and sexuality.”
The letter further argued that military leaders ought to refrain from making moral claims about sexuality, a point probably aimed at remarks made by outgoing Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace, who earlier this year declared homosexuality to be “immoral.”
Recent surveys indicate that about four in five Americans agree that gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals should be allowed to serve.
Signatories on the letter included former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili, who helped draft the policy in 1993 for the Clinton administration.
An event held at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 30 marked the anniversary of the implementation of the policy by planting 12,000 flags for each gay and lesbian service member expelled from service since 1993.
Servicemembers United, an organization of gay, lesbian, and bisexual current and former service members that seeks repeal of the policy, spearheaded the event along with several other LGBT civil rights organizations.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said, “The military is still kicking out qualified gay, lesbian and bisexual service members. It’s time to stop insulting the good men and women who want to serve their country — it is time to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”