‘Don’t Ask’ draws some more fire

BY ARIANA WITT | MARCH 30, 2010 7:30 AM

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A University of Iowa activist is looking to help change a Clinton-era policy that, he says, is an example of government-sponsored discrimination.

Junior Dan Tallon is circulating a petition calling for changes to the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Tallon, a member of the Iowa National Guard, said he thinks each state, not the federal government, should have jurisdiction over how to deal with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members of the military.

“Iowa should fight for the word ‘discipline,’ which has everything to do with how you serve and nothing to do with being gay,” said Tallon, who will deploy to Afghanistan later this year.

The petition was first signed by Army veteran and gay-rights activist Lt. Dan Choi when he visited the UI in February.

Numerous local government officials are also among the nearly 1,000 signers.

Nationally, the U.S. military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy — which prevents those who are openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual from serving in the military — is changing. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced late last week that only higher ranking officials will have the authority to ask for a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell investigation.

“The changes are better than nothing, but ultimately, it would be great if it just disappeared,” said UI junior Turk Pierson, an executive member of the UI Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender and Allied Union.

Tallon said he knows of Iowans in the military who openly oppose and support the policy as well as those who are gay but serve quietly.

“My twin brother refused to join the Army because of a piece of paper he’d have to sign, listing all the things he couldn’t do while in service,” Tallon said. “Being openly gay was one of them.”

Cary Covington, a UI associate professor of political science, said he predicts the grasp of the policy will continue to loosen. The next move regarding Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should come from within the military, he said.

“Once military leaders show they generally don’t agree with the policy, then political figures should act,” Covington said.

Tallon said input from Iowa officials is the next step for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. After collecting more signatures, he plans to hand his petition off to Johnson County’s elected officials in the state Legislature.

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