As Congress begins hearings to discuss the plan to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, we once again asked PFLAG National Board member Dan Tepfer to offer his perspective on the issue. (You can read some of Dan’s other contributions on the issue on this blog, including his last post here.)
As a retired U. S. Air Force Colonel and PFLAG National board member, I was asked to write an article for the PFLAG blog about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) following President Obama’s call in the State of the Union address for its repeal. DADT is an important issue for me so I jumped at a chance, but when I was asked if I could write from a straight perspective, I had to think for a while. I can’t do that. What is the straight perspective? For me there is no straight or gay perspective. There is only the perspective of integrity.
Integrity is paramount in the military. It should be paramount in all walks of life, but in the military, it can mean life or death on the job. One of the major components of integrity is honesty. I thought back to a presentation by retired U.S. Army Major General Dennis Laitch to our PFLAG Dayton chapter on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2008. General Laitch does not have a family member who is gay, nor does he have, to my knowledge, a close friend who is gay. General Laitch, who served two tours in Iraq, does have a strong sense of integrity, and he believes DADT is wrong because it undermines integrity for both straight and gay service members. According to General Laitch, what message does it send to all service members that the military leadership, all the way to the highest level, encourages, even expects, a segment of the armed forces to be dishonest?
The cost of DADT obviously falls heaviest on gay service members who have to lie by omission every day they serve. But there is a cost to all service members, gay and straight, when their units lose valuable members to DADT, when the services are forced to lower their educational and physical standards to fill the ranks when well-qualified gay individuals are either kicked out or choose not to serve, and when critical career fields such as foreign language interpreters (including Arabic interpreters) are under-staffed because they have lost highly trained individuals to DADT.
Shortly after President Obama completed his State of the Union address I received an email from a Facebook friend Isabell James (a pseudonym). Isabell, or Izzy as she is known on her blog at izzyjames.blogspot.com/, is the partner of a lesbian service member. She shared with me the open letter she had written to President Obama, telling him that his “words and commitment to this cause have brought our family renewed hope and faith.” She not only wants her partner to be able to serve openly, but she eventually wants their family to be able to live their lives like any other military family.
Our country is currently fighting two wars, and the nature of terrorism as a threat sadly may mean we won’t be free from conflict for a long time if ever. We need the strongest, ablest, most honorable people the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard can attract and keep. DADT is a deterrent to that goal. It should be repealed. Please insist that President Obama follow through on his pledge, and also insist that your members of Congress help him do it.