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“Don’t ask, don’t tell” remains in demilitarized zone

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By Leah Frost / Staff writer

By Leah Frost / Staff writer

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has become a circus of political events. The legislation has been swinging back and forth like a trapeze act over the last two months, with minimal clear resolutions on where the ruling will ultimately land.

In 1993, the policy was adopted as a law when the controversy of gay’s serving in the military became a hot topic. The premise of “don’t ask, don’t tell” allowed people to join the military without the question of sexual orientation making or breaking a military career.

Simply put, the military could not ask about an individual’s sexual orientation and as long as said individual did not volunteer the information that they are indeed gay or a lesbian, then they could be a part of the military.

The consequence of joining the military then openly serving as a homosexual can lead to a discharge from the military. The repercussions from being kicked out of the military can range from loss of training, loss of benefits such as funds for college or financial instability and emotional trauma including damaged reputations. It can take the soldiers who have been given the boot years to re-establish stability and discover a future outside of serving in the armed forces.    

There has been a light shed on gay and lesbian rights over the last two years in the political arena. Gay and lesbian marriage took center stage with Proposition 8 and the moral and political debates that split voters to decide whether or not same sex marriage should be legalized.

In the end, the fate of the proposition became a legal issue in the courts and was taken out of the voters hands.

Light is now being cast on the sexual orientation of military men and women and whether or not it is unconstitutional to keep those who are openly gay out of the military.

As seen with proposition 8, the lines of which government agencies and offices are involved what the outcome of the policy will be has become blurred with involvement from multiple parties seeking similar results in vastly different ways. The ultimate goal; to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

In September, U.S. Federal Judge, Virginia Phillips in Riverside, deemed the law “don’t ask, don’t tell” as a violation of first amendment rights and equal protection of the members in military service. Judge Phillips ruled the law unconstitutional.

On Oct. 12, Judge Phillips ordered the immediate halt of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the ban on openly gay troops. The order extended to the Pentagon who were immediately ordered to cease firing gays and lesbians from the military. The military was ordered to stop any and all investigations and discharges of gay soldiers.

Judge Phillips has been accused of using this ruling to gain political presence, despite the accusations her actions and rulings regarding “don’t ask, don’t tell” essentially brought about a debate and plan of action that has been long overdue.

President Obama promised as part of his commitment to the citizens of the United States that he would eliminate the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” first during his campaign and then again in October of 2009.

Although President Obama has made it clear that his intentions and support are aimed at the repeal of the policy, the Obama administration requested that Judge Phillips place an emergency stay on her decision regarding the policy and that they are prepared to appeal the ruling.

The results that Obama’s administration is aiming for is to take the policy to be once and for all repealed by Congress. The administration has to get the issue out of the courts hands and put it back into Congress, which is where the repeal first began earlier this year.

The progression of civil rights and equality for gays and lesbians through the hands of congress has been a slow process compared to the short period that a federal judge was able to get the ball rolling on the ban of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

So why go backwards on a decision that has already been made and on actions that have already been ordered to the Pentagon and the military? It’s a question that still remains unanswered.

Obama’s administration cannot guarantee that Congress will repeal the law, so if the policy gets kicked back to congress then the soldiers and new recruits that are openly gay get dealt a bad hand while Congress and the courts shuffle their stance on the policy.

If the policy goes into limbo again, the courts become irrelevant in the decision and the legislature returns to Congress, then the orders made to the military to stop all dismissals and investigations on gay soldiers will become null and void. All the openly gay recruits who have decided to serve for the United States will be turned away.

The progress of change and the final decision of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is in the balance. The evolution of civil rights in the United States and the strides towards progression are coming to a slow steady halt with the constant banter back and forth of the gays and lesbians role in the military.

Willing and capable men and women are being punished and turned away from their desire to protect and serve the United States all based on sexual orientation.

If freedom and equality are to remain in tact in the United States, it is not wise to punish those willing to fight for the rights and safety based on an individuals choice of lifestyle.

Sexual orientation does not act like a drug and effect the ability of the individual to serve with less capability as any other soldier does.

One way or another “don’t ask, don’t tell” will remain to be a black cloud until it is decided once and for all that the law will bring about further regression of the past progress of civil rights.

Until the government and courts land on the same page and repeal the legislation indefinitely the United State military will continue to put aside the first amendment and the freedoms that shape the United States.      

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