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Corps values of discrimination, condemnation

BY BRETT EDWARD STOUT - GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 26, 2009 7:39 AM

We have become unfortunately accustomed to government math that doesn’t work, but it is our duty as Americans to confront that math when it is absurd. The New York Times has reported that the U.S. Armed Forces plans to recruit 1,000 immigrants on temporary visas into the U.S. military. This initiative, while noble, is not only incongruous with the current policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it is the highest level of insult to patriotic gay and lesbian servicemen and -women, veterans, and potential recruits.

The U.S. military has discharged 4,342 gay and lesbian servicemen and -women since its present recruitment deficit began in 2002. It has actively pursued methods to make up recruitment shortfalls in almost every way, almost. Even in a time of desperation, when the president and the secretary of Defense openly oppose the exclusion and removal of gays and lesbians from the military, it would first turn to immigrants to answer the call of duty.

The initiative is focused at immigrants who have experience with foreign languages and medical training. This makes it all the more a personal insult to me. I served for five years in the Marines as a Russian linguist, and I am gay. I joined the Marines at the age of 18 not to make a statement as a gay man but to make a statement as an American. Before I enlisted, I spent four years studying Russian in high school and was a national-championship swimmer. My academic scores were exemplary, and my criminal record was clean.

When I joined the Marines, I did so side by side with numerous patriotic men and women who had received waivers for their criminal background or for their less than acceptable mental abilities. I lived in hiding for five years knowing that everything I had worked so hard for could at any moment be taken from me for being who I am and that the military would rather choose criminals, the mentally handicapped, and now immigrants before it would knowingly choose me.

The moment the our president was sworn in, the new administration’s website went live. It outlines the policy goals of our new leadership. Among these aims is a call for the absolute repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, yet movement on this remains stalled while insults are heaped upon gay and lesbian servicemen and -women who live in forced secrecy.

The U.S. military remains the pinnacle of duty, patriotism, and selflessness for this country. By denying gays and lesbians the right to serve, their government is telling them that it feels them incapable of any of these traits: I am, and we are more than capable. This is about more than acceptability; this is about ending discrimination, degradation, and condemnation.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell proclaims boldly that if you are gay or lesbian, you are not patriotic, you are not moral, you are not worthy, and that you insufficiently embody the core values of honor, courage, and commitment. I spent five years of my life proving that fact wrong. The question remains: when will our country let those like me openly do the same?

Brett Edward Stout is the author of the novel Sugar-baby Bridge.


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