|The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the nationís only
legal aid and watchdog group on "Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue,"
recently released its fourth annual report on the military's record of
adherence to the policy. Four years into the policy,
the report documents a 27 percent rise in command violations Ė where commands
asked, pursued, and harassed suspected gay servicemembers in violation
of current regulations. This is the fourth year in a row that command
violations have increased.
The current policy promised to stop questions about sexual orientation, witch hunts, and harassment and to create a "zone of privacy" for all service members, gay and straight. The report finds that those promises have fallen flat.
"Commanders asked. Commanders pursued. Commanders harassed. All account for the increased command violations," said C. Dixon Osburn, SLDNís Co-Executive Director.
The Pentagon has yet to release its 1997 discharge numbers under "Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue", although the tally has been available for months.
SLDN, an organization that helps those targeted by the policy on gays and lesbians, cites a lack of commitment from top military and civilian authorities as the explanation for the most recent upsurge in violations of its own policy. Field personnel receive no guidance on the limits to investigations, servicemembers have no recourse when the policy is violated to their detriment, and no one is held accountable.
"Lack of leadership. Lack of training. Lack of accountability. All are to blame for the military's persistent failure to abide by its own laws," said former Army Captain Michelle Benecke, SLDNís Co-Executive Director.
Major findings of SLDNís fourth annual report, Conduct Unbecoming: The
Fourth Annual Report on "Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue" include:
SLDN is the only organization that documents violations of "Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue." By contrast, the Department of Defense has instituted no method of identifying, documenting, or correcting abuses of the four-year-old policy.
Among servicemembers who have been investigated by the military in violation of the "Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue" policy, is Airman Jennifer Dorsey, from Santa Barbara, CA, who was harassed, accused of being a lesbian, and physically assaulted by enlisted women in her dorm. The military took no action against her abusers, and instead threatened an investigation of Dorsey.
The SLDN report outlines a number of steps needed to end the militaryís
abuses of its own policy. They include:
District Judge Stanley Sporkin of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that in seeking to determine the identity of the person behind the anonymous online profile, the military violated both the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the limits to investigations under "Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue."
"The Navy violated the very essence of ĎDonít Ask, Donít Pursueí by launching a search and destroy mission," Sporkin wrote. "Suggestions of sexual orientation in a private, anonymous email account did not give the Navy a sufficient reason to investigate to determine whether to commence discharge proceedings. In its actions, the Navy violated its own regulations." The military has yet to decide whether it will appeal Judge Sporkinís ruling.
SLDNís findings in Conduct Unbecoming: The Fourth Annual Report on "Donít Ask, Donít Tell, Donít Pursue" are well-documented. Servicemembers and attorneys who work on cases are available for interviews, except in cases where servicemembers could suffer retaliation for speaking.
More Gays Opting Out of the Military
|More people are being discharged
from the military after volunteering that they are homosexual, but Defense
Department secretary William Cohen says he does not believe that means
harassment of gays is on the rise. "This is a trend that caught my eye,"
Cohen said of the increase Tuesday during an interview on National Public
Radio. Cohen said about 82% of those who were given administrative discharges
on the basis of homosexuality during 1997 had given "purely voluntary"
statements regarding their sexual orientation.
During that same year, 997 people were given such discharges, a major increase from 850 the year before, according to a new study that has not yet been made public by the Pentagon. Critics contend the rise is due to harassment of gays, but some Pentagon officials have speculated there may be other reasons since many of those who are voluntarily disclosing their omosexuality do so shortly after enlisting. Some officers say it could be used as an excuse by people who are unhappy with being in the military and want to leave. However, the officials said they could not offer any figures to back up such a claim, since the military does not follow those people who return to private life.
On the radio program Cohen said he had ordered the study to ensure that "there are no witch-hunts going on." The secretary said he believed the "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy of the Clinton administration is working and that if it's not, he'll make sure the policy is followed. The policy, adopted soon after President Clinton took office, is supposed to allow gays to serve if they keep their sexual orientation private and to punish those who engage in homosexual acts or take actions that call attention to their orientation. Commanders are not to ask about sexual rientation or launch investigations without credible evidence.
Source: The Advocate online.