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The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that all military recruiters must accept openly gay applicants and allow them to join for now. This is the first time since the enacting of the 17 year old DADT policy that openly gay service members can join the military. The announcement comes after California-based U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips ordered the military a week ago to stop enforcing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and on Monday tentatively refused a Pentagon request to re-instate the 17-year-old ban.
Some veterans who were previously discharged under the policy were the first at the recruitment stations after the announcement from the Pentagon including Lieutenant Daniel Choi. Choi, an Iraq vet, was discharged after announcing to his command that he was a homosexual as well as participating in gay pride/equality events in his uniform. Choi has made himself an advocate for gay soldiers as well as demonstrating to the military that it does not affect readiness as he came out after completing a successful combat tour in Iraq; leading men into battle.
The Pentagon, who is appealing the judicial order, has made it clear to recruits and service members that the overturned law could be reinstated and that if they “out” themselves during this “awkward” time that they could face discharge. While both the Commander in Chief as well as the Defense Secretary want to see the law repealed they would like it to be on their terms, which includes a 1 year study on how allowing gays would affect morale and battle effectiveness. The study is due in December.
With this turn of events it would certainly be understandably hard for those who were discharged not to rush down to the recruitment center but I feel it’s not only stupid but a waste of time. The Pentagon rarely loses a court case and it’s only a matter of time before the law is reinstated and those who have made their orientation known during this time of legal limbo will likely have ended their career. Those who have gone down to their local recruiter and signed up proudly will get a disappointing phone call and probably have their name forever entered into a database as being “unfit” for service.
It’s a tough issue for me as I am an avid supporter of gay rights but I’m an even stronger supporter of following laws; especially laws that you agree to in writing. I understand that DADT as it stands, or formerly stands, was deemed unconstitutional and just plain wrong; however it was a law. Those who outed themselves after having full knowledge of the law and then were surprised when the military kicked them to the curb puzzle me. I am happy to see that the law is finally being challenged but I don’t want to see soldiers/sailors/airmen and marines ruining their career over something they agreed to keep to themselves. No matter how unjust a law may be it still is a law and those breaking it should and do know the consequences. The time is certainly approaching where gays will serve side by side, openly, with their straight counterparts but as with most things it is better to be safe than sorry.
*Side Note* I give Lt. Daniel Choi a lot of credit and I respect him quite a bit. His career of honorable service was cut short like 13,000 other gay soldiers but he continues to fight for equality within the military and in civilian life. When the Pentagon gave the order to allow gays in on Tuesday he was at the recruitment center signing himself back up. A West Point graduate, Army Officer and a combat vet he is willing to rejoin his brothers in arms as an enlisted man just so he can serve his country the right way; openly and honestly. I truly do hope that his re-enlistment isn’t cut short by a reinstatement of the law and I hope that many more discharged soldiers get their chance to serve the right way. Watch Lt. Daniel Choi, now Specalist Choi, start the process of Re-enlistment