Monday, June 29, 2009

Ask Why, Tell All

In 1993, I wrote this ad on behalf of the David Geffen Foundation and the ACLU. At the time, the debate was raging over the military's policy of barring homosexuals from serving. The compromise finally agreed to was "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a policy that essentially promoted lying and offered gays and lesbians no real protection from expulsion, just the opportunity to serve as long as their secret remained safe. It kept commanders from asking, but it put the onus on the soldiers to lie. And, ultimately, under either policy, a soldier could be dismissed simply on the basis of sexual orientation, despite their record of service, despite the military's investment in their training, and despite the specialized skills they might be able to contribute to their unit.

It's hard to believe that more than fifteen years later, we are still dealing with this same issue, and that more than 12,000 soldiers have lost their jobs on the basis of their sexual orientation during that time. Tomorrow, yet another capable, highly trained and skilled soldier faces the same fate because he refuses to lie about who he is.

Lt. Dan Choi is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, an Iraq War veteran, and a fluent speaker of Arabic. The charges against him are "moral and professional dereliction of duty," or more simply put, being gay and refusing to lie about it. The California Courage Campaign is collecting signatures on a petition that will be presented at Lt. Choi's hearing tomorrow. If you support equal rights for all and believe that the promotion of lying and deception is a greater dereliction of morality and professionalism than the choice of whom to love, add your name to the petition in support of Lt. Dan Choi.

Sixteen years is too long to avoid asking or telling. And expelling highly skilled soldiers for no good reason, especially at a time when the need is so great that the military is calling on National Guard members and sending soldiers back for three and four tours of duty, just doesn't make sense.

Don't accept discrimination, don't be quiet.

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