Steve Ralls

Four More Voices in the Chorus for Repeal

Filed By Steve Ralls | July 08, 2008 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Elaine Donnelly, Michael Palm Center, military

Is there anyone left who still thinks "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a good idea? According to a new report released yesterday, the answer is increasingly no.

A group of four senior retired military officials weighed into the debate on Monday, making them the latest group of officers to declare that the federal ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members should be repealed. They join respected military leaders like General John Shalikashvili, the retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, the Army's former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, in calling for an end to the exclusion of patriotic gay Americans from our armed forces.

"Evidence shows that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline or cohesion," the officers said, dealing a direct blow to the tried-and-disproved argument that has so often been deployed by proponents of the ban.

The group of four includes a three-star Air Force lieutenant general who was tasked with implementing the law in 1993; a retired Marine Corps General; and a Navy Vice Admiral. Two of the four identify as Republicans and two have backed Democratic candidates, making their conclusions truly bi-partisan in nature.

In fact, polls have shown that a majority of self-identified conservatives (65%, according to FOX News) support repeal of the law, along with 79% (according to Gallup) of the public at large. And it's with good reason.

If you have a loved one serving in the military, especially in a war zone, the sexual orientation of the doctor who provides medical care, the linguist who is translating terrorist chatter or the helicopter pilot assigned to air lift your son or daughter out of harm's way, simply doesn't matter. And so Republicans and Democrats alike understand that, when it comes to life and death in the war zone, qualification trumps sexual orientation or gender identity every time.

In the end, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" isn't just bad for military readiness, it's bad for families, too.

It also puts service members in the untenable position of defying the services' core values, which include honesty and integrity. As Navy Vice Adm. Jack Shanahan told the Associated Press, the policy, from its very beginning, forced troops to compromise their personal integrity in order to serve.

"Everyone was living a big lie -- the homosexuals were trying to hide their sexual orientation and the commanders were looking the other way because they didn't want to disrupt operations by trying to enforce the law," he said.

That's why yesterday's report, commissioned by The Michael Palm Center, is so important. It points out the harm "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" inflicts not only on the armed forces, but on the troops themselves. And it adds four more critical voices to the chorus calling for repeal.

It remains to be seen whether anti-gay activists like Elaine Donnelly, who blamed General Shalikashvili's support for repeal on his stroke, will try to malign and discredit the officers who authored this report. But there is no denying that, increasingly, those who support maintaining the ban are in a very small minority that's growing smaller, thankfully and for good reason, by the minute.

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Steve, I guess you can say I'm getting a little perturbed. No, I can say I'm getting A LOT perturbed. Don't you read any other articles or comments here on Bilerico? How about this one:
" . . . the federal ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service members should be repealed." That is not a quote comment from someone else, that's your comment. Let me try to once again make this absolutely clear. TRANSGENDER PEOPLE ALSO GET KICKED OUT UNDER DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL BECAUSE THE MILITARY DOESN'T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY OR EXPRESSION. Okay?

Sorry Bil and everyone else. We have absolute proof that transgender people have been kicked out under DADT, and I'm not going to stop pointing it out until the law is repealed. I want that law repealed, and I won't disrespect my gay, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sister in the process. Is it too much to ask to recieve equal respect in this situation? The law may say "sexual orientation," but that is no excuse to acting like we don't count. The stupid military says we count. This is one trnasgender veteran who will make sure we do get included every single time, and I don't care who's feathers I ruffle in the process.

Yes, I did see the words "gender identity" in the 3rd paragraph after the fold. That "crumb" doesn't count.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | July 8, 2008 2:03 PM


As you know, I've been a huge fan of the work that TAVA does, and a big proponent of allowing transgender service members to serve openly, too. The ban on transgender personnel should be repealed, as it has been in many allied countries, but (legally) the ban on transgender troops in the U.S. is not "Don't Ask, Don't Tell;" it's a medical regulation ban. Is it wrong? You bet. And should it be repealed? Absolutely.

And are transgender personnel impacted by DA, DT? Of course. And I've known several 100% heterosexual troops who have been discharged under the law as well. But the language of DA, DT does not address straight personnel or transgender personnel. It doesn't mean neither group is impacted, but when we talk about the law, it's important to reflect what the law says.

You'll see that I constantly talk about the courage of L, G, B and T veterans here on Bilerico. And, as you point out, I believe that neither sexual orientation NOR gender identity or expression should be a bar to serving in the armed forces.

And, I dare say, of all the LGB activists who have worked consistently on DA, DT repeal over the years, I've been the one who has been more trans-inclusive, and trans-supportive out of the whole bunch . . . both in my language and my actions. But I also try to be as legally accurate as possible when I talk about the law, too.

My views are clear in my posts: Don't bar transgender Americans from the service; repeal the medical regulations that do so; and honor the service of transgender veterans. With anti-gay activists like Elaine Donnelly trying to prop up and "save" both laws, our ire (I respectfully submit) would be better directed toward them, than toward those who are 100% there with you already.

Because of all that you have done in the past is why I was surpried at what was stated in this piece. I have witnessed first hand all that you talked about in you response comment. I am sorry.

For the longest time, all we had was heresay that transgender people were also affected by DADT. After seeing the raw data on all the crap our people have experienced while in the military (and at the VA) I cannot help but to be passionate about this issue. TAVA constantly gets E-mails from veterans needing some form of help, and they each make my heart ach when I read them. I also ach whenever I hear the stories from GLB veterans about thier horror stories in regards to DADT. It all makes my nerves raw.

When we see how proud the average American is of all veterans and then we counter that with how LGBT people are treated in the miltary by the establishment, it tears at all of us affected by this. I come from a family of several military veterans, including my father, my son and my brother, but I cannot help to be ashamed at this country at times.

Steve, I have always had the utmost respect for you and what you have done. I consider you a brother of mine. Just chalk it up as your "older sister" having one of her famous temper tantrums. We'll get through this crap one day.

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | July 8, 2008 3:28 PM

You know I love you, Monica! :-) And have such enormous pride in, and respect for, the work you do, too. There are so many transgender vets out there who owe so much to you and TAVA and so many of us (including me) in the larger LGBT community who are inspired and motivated by your tenacity, energy and courage, too.

- Steve .

I remember when I had just graduated from college an Army recruiter emailed me. I replied that I was the first male in the family not to join up (2 years of military service is required for all men in Argentina, but my father's side also all enlisted), but that I wasn't going to go back into the closet just to kill Iraqis.

He was actually pretty polite when he replied and said that he wanted the law repealed but couldn't do anything about it.

s there anyone left who still thinks "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a good idea? According to a new report released yesterday, the answer is increasingly no.

There's always Mitt Romney...