‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy needs to end

Michael Collins

To the Honorable Tim Ryan:

I am writing to ask you to support the Military Readiness Enhancement Act of 2005. I understand that you serve on the House Armed Services Committee, to which the bill has been referred. I am sure that you are already well aware of the report issued on Feb. 23 by the congressional General Accounting Office, which revealed that our country’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has cost taxpayers over $191 million.

I know from following your campaign that you are a supporter of many gay civil rights. Our country finds itself in a situation where we are discriminating against desperately needed military personnel and wasting taxpayers’ money by doing so. Many of the nearly 10,000 gay service members who have been discharged since the policy was enacted have vital skills that our military needs. Despite a continued need for Arabic language specialists, the military has discharged many servicemen and women with this knowledge simply for being gay.

We have congressmen calling for the reinstatement of the draft because of military shortages, yet we can afford to discharge so many competent, trained, willing individuals simply because of their sexual orientation?

Mr. Ryan, I come from a military family. My father was in the Navy. Both of my grandfathers were also in the military. My mother’s father served in the Marines during the Korean War. Nearly all of my uncles served in the Marines. Though I choose to serve my country in other ways, my personal choice is irrelevant because I would not have been allowed to serve in the military because I am a gay American.

Such blatant discrimination should not be allowed to continue. My family has fought for generations to help ensure the freedoms that Americans enjoy. Though I cannot speak for the rest of my family, I believe that the gay and bisexual citizens of this country deserve those freedoms that my family fought so hard to protect.

I also have friends who have hidden their sexual orientation while serving in the military. These individuals have risked their lives to keep our country safe. And in return, they are forced to keep an important part of their lives a secret. These individuals did not join the military to stare at naked men in showers. They simply wanted to fulfill a sense of civic responsibility.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy does far more harm to this country than good. There is no valid reason why willing American citizens should be banned from our military. But it goes beyond mere institutional discrimination. Policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell” can lead many Americans to more direct action against our gay citizens. If this policy was not in place, perhaps Pfc. Barry Winchell would still be alive today, instead of the victim of a brutal and senseless beating.

While I realize this bill is in its very earliest stages, I hope to see it passed by both Congress and the Senate in the near future. From the things that I have heard you say during your campaigns, I think I can count on you to help end this needless discrimination.

Michael Collins is a senior sociology major and a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.