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‘Don’t ask’ questioned

BY SHANE ERSLAND | OCTOBER 05, 2009 7:20 AM

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For more than 16 years, policymakers have not asked much about “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” But as politicians begin debating the controversial policy, UI military personnel are also weighing in on the issue.

UI sophomore Randy Miller, a member of the UI Veteran’s Association, said he thinks it could be beneficial for the military to change the legislation.

Under the policy, gays and lesbians are restricted from serving openly in the armed forces.

“If they’re willing to stand up and say they’ll defend the country, I’d say let them go ahead,” the former Navy man said. “Their willingness and ability to serve should take preference over their sexual orientation.”

Under pressure from Democrats, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., has committed to holding a hearing on the topic this fall. This will be the first hearing on the topic since Congress approved the ban in early 1990s.

Policymakers are also examining the bill, looking at issues including whether it is discriminatory, if it’s necessary for troop morale, and what proper procedural steps would be for changing the policy.

President Obama has said he supports overturning the ban but will likely not take up the issue until early next year. But some Americans disagree with the president, calling for Congress to keep the policy in place.

Around 634 U.S. armed service members were discharged for being gay last year, according to an August congressional report.

UI law Professor Bill Buss said the process for changing the policy will likely be slow, and military experts need to confer with Congress about what effects any changes will have on the armed forces.

“Anything having to do with gays in the military is going to be controversial,” he said.

Miller said “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which was signed into effect in 1993 under President Clinton, in many cases doesn’t accomplish the goals it was created to achieve.

“Since they instituted the policy, there have been many [gays and lesbians] who have served anyway,” Miller said.

A Gallup Poll taken in May found that 69 percent of the public favored allowing openly gay people to serve in the military.

The legislation which the House is considering would allow those restricted from serving under the current policy to sign up for military duty.

But Miller said he doesn’t believe armed forces numbers would increase dramatically.

“Right now, they’re able to serve without declaring,” he said. “I don’t see it making a difference in numbers; if they want to serve they’ll do it secretly or openly.”

As far as pursuing new soldiers, UI military-science Professor and Army Reserve Officer Training Corps Lt. Cpl. David Deyak said recruiters from his office will continue to use the same methods to recruit students until a change is made to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Miller, who served in the Navy before “don’t ask, don’t tell” was implemented, said he would expect some soldiers and officers to be upset with a policy modification, but added change is traditional for our country.

“There are still going to be some hard-liners, but people got over women being on board a ship,” he said. “Gays and lesbians have proven their equality through their struggles.”


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