Petition does not infringe on military’s freedom of speech

The Anti-War Committee

We were appalled at the Feb. 25 Daily Kent Stater editorial against the petition drive to get military recruiters off campus due to their discrimination based on sexual orientation. Not only was the argument weak, but also it did nothing to address the actual objections of those of us involved in the petition drive. We firmly believe in the right to freedom of speech and expression, but it is the military that is hampering the freedoms of gays in the military by forcing them to remain in the closet. Our argument will show that people across the political spectrum have reason to oppose these kinds of policies, and that it is the university’s duty to enforce its own rules against discrimination.

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military is a policy of discrimination. Under this policy, service members can be discharged for: making a statement that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual, engaging in same sex relationships or marrying or attempting to marry someone of the same sex.

Ironically, the day the editorial ran, it was reported that the General Accounting Office released a study of the costs of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The policy has cost the military $200 million. Since 1993, 9,488 gays and lesbians have lost their jobs due to this policy, 757 of whom held what the military called “critical occupations,” including 322 linguists, 54 of whom spoke Arabic. Conservatives should agree that a policy that hampers our efforts to prevent terrorist attacks should be discontinued.

The Declaration of Independence states that all men are endowed with, “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The military’s policy infringes on gay and lesbians’ pursuit of happiness. They are told to stay in the closet. They are effectively shamed because of who they are.

The military and the university, being part of the government, are charged with providing the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Although the military has not done so, Kent State has. University Policy 3342-6-01.1 states that discrimination based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated, and groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation can be separated from the university.

The United States Court of Appeals decided that educational institutions have the right to remove military recruiters that have anti-discrimination policies without losing federal funding.

The petition is not an attack on freedom of speech but rather an attack on discriminatory policies of the military. It is the military’s policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that is violating freedom of speech. The petition drive is merely asking for the administration to enforce its own policy.

Removing military recruiters from campus will not cut the military’s $1.37 billion advertising budget or shut down the military’s Web sites and recruitment centers. Removing military recruiters from campus will not infringe on the military’s freedom of speech.

As far as writing Congress, progress does not come from legislatures. In U.S. history, progress has come from people being mobilized. The women’s suffrage, civil rights, reproductive rights and gay rights movements haven’t won anything because of enlightened politicians but rather through struggle and activism. This petition is a small example of the grassroots activism necessary for change.

The above guest column was submitted by members of the Kent State Anti-War Committee. The group meets at 8 p.m. Mondays in the Student Center.