Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a Women’s Issue

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a Women’s Issue

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Army and the Air Force discharged more women than men in 2007 under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which prohibits gay and lesbian people from serving in the military if they are open about their sexuality. November marks the 14th anniversary of this legislation.  Today more than 12,000 service members have lost their jobs due to this policy. Of those 12,000 discharged members, women outnumber the men by far.


According to the information gathered by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network under a Freedom of Information Act request,


While women make up 14% of Army personnel, 46% of those discharged under the policy last year were women. And while 20% of Air Force personnel are women, 49% of its discharges under the policy last year were women.


Some advocacy groups postulate the reason behind women being discharged more than men under this law is "lesbian baiting", in which a woman rejects a man who in turn accuses her of being a lesbian. Furthermore, they speculate that women are accused of being lesbians if they give subordinates poor ratings in performance reviews. The standard for accusing a person for being gay or lesbian in the military is very low. Overall in 2007, the Army discharged 302 soldiers under the policy , up from 280 in 2006. The Air Force dismissed 91 people, down from 102 from the previous year. The Navy discharged 166 and The Marine Corps discharged 68.


In May, a landmark appeals court ruling, Maj. Margaret Witt v. Dept. of the Air Force, said the government must justify each individual discharge under “don’t ask, don’t tell”, which means that the military must now show how Witt posed a liability to her job because of her sexuality. Moreover, 143 members of congress are co-sponsoring the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell”.


These are steps in the right direction to fight against the unfair treatment of LGBT communities in the armed forces. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is one that promotes discrimination and hate towards LGBT communities. Not only do the numbers show an overwhelming disparity between men and women, but it also opens the door for harassment to go unpunished in the military.


--Stephanie Alvarado