A Sham and a Shame

Article excerpt

This is a time of reminiscence. Four years ago we celebrated the election of a president we believed would open the door to equality for gay men and lesbians serving in the military. It was a most exciting time. Going to Washington for the inauguration, one could feel the energy of freedom in the air. Thousands of Clinton's gay and lesbian supporters thought he would ride into Washington as our savior. We expected to be given full citizenship rights with his swearing in as president

It's hard to know who was more surprised at the way things turned out: gays and lesbians or the president. Clinton met with unparalleled resistance to overturning the military's ban on gay and lesbian personnel. His own lack of military experience was staring him in the face. He was presumed ignorant on the issues of privacy, esprit de corps, and discipline as they relate to the military. This presumed ignorance enabled military leaders to spurn his desire to change the policy. The result was a moratorium on the issue and sham hearings in Congress to determine how changes in the antigay policy should be implemented and defined.

During the debate in Congress, in the press, on radio and television talk shows, and in churches, there was never once a sexual scandal that took place within the military involving lesbians or gay men--only gay baiting, only the anguish following the murder of Allen Schindler. There was never any indication of sexual harassment being instigated by gays and lesbians. There was never any indication of predatory behavior initiated by gay men and lesbians in the military against heterosexuals within the military. Gays in the military was an issue for Congress and for those outside the military--not for those in the trenches. The whole fiasco was a sham and a shame. Clinton's "compromise" policy, "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue," doomed lesbians and gay men to silence until the law is overturned.

And even in silence, no one is safe. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has been monitoring the implementation of "don't ask, don't tell" since the policy's inception, has recorded over 700 violations of the policy, over 2,000 discharges, and 28 witch-hunts. (The SLDN also provides advice and legal assistance to service members whose careers are put in jeopardy by military witch-hunts and investigations. They can be reached at [202] 328-3244.)

Among those targeted by the illegal witch-hunts are women who may not be lesbians but who have been labeled lesbians after rebuffing a man's sexual advances. Indeed, women have been discharged for homosexuality in greater numbers than would be expected based on the percentage of women in the military. …