A University of California, Santa Barbara study found that due to the recruiting problem the military has experienced, they have doubled the number of moral waivers given to convicted felons during the fiscal year of 2006. In addition, the New York Times has reported that the Department of Defense has been granting waivers for medical conditions, such as asthma, high blood pressure, and attention deficit order; previously these conditions would have excluded them from service.
During the fiscal year 2005, the military dismissed forty-nine medical personnel, forty law enforcement officers, fourteen intelligent officers, thirty-five infantrymen, seven nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare specialists, and seventeen air crewman. Their job performance was not in question; they were dismissed because of their sexual orientation. Since the implementation in 1993 of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, eleven thousand gay and lesbian soldiers have been dismissed under the law. Can the military afford to loose two to three qualified service members a day because of this law?
Retired four star Gen. John Shalikashvili, who chaired the Joint Chief of Staff when Clinton signed the “Don’t Ask, don’t Tell” law into effect, renounced his support for the policy stating that openly gay service members “Would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces.” A January 2007 Harris poll found fifty-five percent of Americans believe homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly. But even more important, A Zogby poll in December 2006 found that seventy-three percent of military members are “comfortable” with gay people and twenty three percent “know for sure” someone in their unit is gay. When Marine Sergeant, Brian Fricke, came out to his fellow Marines while serving in Iraq he found, “there was no difference in the way we interacted with each other…we still accomplished our missions.”
On February 28, 2007, Rep. Marty Meehan introduced legislation to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military and put in place a policy of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation. The bill has one hundred and ten cosponsors including three Republicans, Rep. Gilchrest, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, and Rep Shay. But Meeham bill is facing an uphill battle. Meecham said, “The president won’t sign the bill…But if we can get a dialogue going in the House so that the facts come out and we get people to testify and then we can get a Senate bill and get things moving in the Senate, I would hope that after the 2008 election we’d be in a much stronger position to get this bill passed.”
The Question is can America afford to wait until after the 2008 election? The executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, C, Dixon Osburn said, “Given our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the recruiting woes our armed forces face, and the quality of troops being dismissed under the law, Congressman Meechan’s legislation is more important than ever…There is no excuse for sacrificing security in the name of discrimination.”
Rep. Marty Meehan and Eric Alva