I have been meaning to write this since Bruce invited me to join him and Dan as a regular contributor here at GP. Last week’s release of the University of California’s advocacy group CSSMM‘s study revealing that the costs of Bill Clinton’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy amounted to one one-hundredth of one percent of the military budget over 10 years seems to have re-sparked the debate about gays in the military. This will be the first in a series of posts I’ll make regarding facts, opinion, and the realities on the ground. The hope is to do a 3- or 4-part posting, each separated by a day or two to allow for dialog. I invite vigorous discussion, but do implore the readers and commenters to stick to the topics I raise and refrain from tangientially attacking one side or the other on issues of no relevance.
I’ve been advocating we maintain perspective on this issue for some time (alas, often in vain). But let’s start with some real facts before we move on:
1) The total number of gays discharged prior to DADT’s implementation will never be known. Gay ‘rights’ advocates who stomp around yelling about how many more gays have been discharged as a result of DADT are either consciously misleading their followers or are simply unfamiliar with how the military works and how it discharges people.
2) The reason this number cannot be known is that, prior to DADT, each prospective member was asked as part of the recruiting process if he was gay. Once DADT was put in place, this practice naturally ended. This means that,
3) A military member who came out as gay once he was enlisted (having, prior to DADT, signed a statement affirming he was not gay) was guilty of false enlistment.
4) Therefore, this member would not be kicked out of the military for being gay; No, he was kicked out for false enlistment, a far more serious matter. This had two results:
a) The member usually received a discharge under less-than-honorable circumstances, and
b) He would not be counted as having been kicked out “for being gay”
5) Now, there were some people discharged simply for being gay in the pre-DADT days. These were members who could convince their commanders that they were straight when they enlisted (and signed the paper saying so), but only afterwards realized they were gay. This realization is natural, of course, as most military members sign up at a time in their lives when they may not necessarily be aware of themselves fully. Although this type of realization happens often, back in those days, due to societal mores, few gays were self-aware enough to be able to articulate such a situation to a commanding officer when under the stress of being discharged.
6) Therefore, most (a vast majority of) gay members discharged from the military before DADT were not kicked out “for being gay”. On the other hand,
7) In the post-DADT world, damn-near all gay members booted under the policy are administratively discharged “for being gay”. (I say “damn-near all” because there are always some cases wherein a poorly-performing member has this tossed onto his pile of reasons. However, in these few instances, a servicemember’s sexuality is a moot point as he is not performing, which is the military’s focus in the first place.)
8) Which is to say, comparing the number of servicemembers kicked out “for being gay” pre-DADT and post-DADT is comparing apples to oranges (apologies for the fruit reference). The number of servicemembers who were told, “You’re gay, so you have to hit the road, sorry” was basically nil, as compared to now, where basically all of them are told this, instead of being dishonorably discharged for false enlistment.
9) It should be obvious to any observer that this is a much better (although admitedly not ideal) situation for a gay servicemember: Rather than having his future ruined with a Less-Than-Honorable Discharge (or a Court Martial conviction, which transfers to your record as a felony conviction), they are relieved of their duty and obligations without any official black mark. Ask any former servicemember who was kicked out with an LTO Discharge if he’d swap it for an Administrative Discharge, you’ll see what I mean.
Saying the number of discharges for gay members has risen as a result of DADT is like changing the definition of obesity and then saying the number of obese people has changed. You’re moving the ruler, not the measurement.
My point in bringing this to light is not to argue either side of the DADT debate. It is simply to make sure we’re all starting with the same facts on the ground. We can all come to different conclusions based on the facts, but when we allow one side of the debate to insult reality by manipulating the facts, we’re destined to fail to come to any acceptable consensus.
In my next post, we’ll go into perspective and what’s really important as we move forward with the debate.