Blog of Rights

Mission-Critical Troops vs. Irrational Discrimination

By Ian S. Thompson, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:52pm

New data released Monday morning by the Palm Center provided further evidence of the continuing harm that is being done to our armed forces as a result of the counterproductive and discriminatory policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT).

According to the numbers, the U.S. military continued to fire so-called mission-critical troops throughout the 2009 fiscal year. These discharges included eight linguists, 20 infantrymen, 16 medical aides, seven combat engineers, six missile artillery operating crew members, and one member of the Special Forces.

Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin asked the obvious question, "Why are we firing linguists and infantrymen in the middle of two wars?" Good question. To find the answer, we won't be able to turn to facts, but to irrational fear and discrimination. Opponents of repealing this policy often like to talk about how it is necessary to preserving military readiness and unit cohesion, however, the data speaks for itself. DADT is more than simply a discriminatory policy. It is counterproductive to the military's own national security goals and the safety of our troops who are in harm's way.

Additionally, the data showed that DADT discharges have a disproportionate impact on racial minorities and women. For example, two Navy officers were discharged in FY 2009; both were Asian. In the Army, of the five officers discharged, two were African-American and one was Asian. And although women comprise only 14 percent of the Army, lesbians received 48 percent of the Army's DADT discharges in FY 2009.

They all join the more than 13,500 men and women who have been fired under DADT since the policy first took effect 17 years ago. In addition to them, there are those like Katherine Miller . Miller was one of the top-ranked cadets in her class at West Point, but is resigning in opposition to DADT and will be transferring to Yale. How is our military made stronger when a talented and promising young cadet like Miller is forced to give up her future in our armed forces?

It is essential that Congress finish the job of repealing DADT this year. President Obama and the leadership at the Pentagon must move swiftly to bring about the demise of the policy and allow those servicemembers who are lesbian, gay and bisexual to serve with the honesty and integrity that has too long been denied them.

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