Earlier this week, the House and Senate committee voted to repeal the discriminatory tradition of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). This archaic policy was instituted under President Clinton to prohibit the military from inquiring about a service member’s sexual orientation, however it also discharges anyone who is openly gay or lesbian. It's resulted in more than 13,000 discharges over the past 17 years.
It’s great news that we have finally started to take action on a law that President Obama says, “denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.” But did you know that DADT disproportionately affects women?
Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans and their straight allies, released data that showed that while women only make up 14% of the military, they account for over 34% of discharges from DADT. They also showed similar disproportionate effects among non-white minorities.
While the Pentagon could not explain why women were disproportionately affected, I believe it has to do with power and control. Women in the military already face astounding rates of rape and sexual assault. They are also being targeted under DADT for refusing sexual advances from male soldiers. As Servicemembers United Executive Director J. Alexander Nicholson III says, “Often times women are accused of being lesbians if they do not succumb to the sexual advances or the romantic interests of others, and this sometimes leads to unfair targeting of women under 'don't ask, don't tell.'”
DADT has become as a tool for sexual harassment. It degrades women while insulting and debasing the gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women who protect our country. Besides it being an issue of institutionalized discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, it also becomes an issue of the power of white hetero-normativeness in the military.
Despite being passed in the house and the Senate Armed Services Committee, the bill still needs to be passed in the Senate next month. Some Senate Republicans have already threatened to filibuster if the Defense Authorization Bill comes to the Senate floor with DADT attached to it. A deal has also been reached to postpone the repeal from going into effect until December 1, 2010. So even if DADT does get repealed, it will have to wait until the end of the year for it to go in effect.
You can sign this petition that says that you stand in solidarity in repealing DADT!
picture courtesy of flickr.com/Enrico_Fuente