Thirty-eight graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point came out of the closet recently, offering to help their alma mater educate future Army leaders on the need to accept and honor the sacrifices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops.
In other words, to end "separate but equal" treatment of gays in the military.
The organization they formed, Knights Out, wants to serve as a connection between gay troops and Army administrators, particularly at West Point, providing an “open forum” for communication between gay West Point graduates and their fellow alumni, and to serve as advisors for West Point leaders in the eventuality—which the group believes is both “imminent and inevitable”—that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed by Congress.
“We're publicly announcing our sexuality, our orientation,” said 1st Lt. Dan Choi, a National Guardsman with the 1st Battalion., 69th Infantry. “It’s just one part of who we are in saying that we are standing to be counted.”
And they deserve to be counted; as do we all.
The formation of Knights Out follows the lead of the US Naval Academy, which has a gay support group called USNA Out, and the US Air Force Academy's Blue Alliance. Most of these groups’ members also belong to the Service Academy Gay and Lesbian Alumni social network, a group that Knights Out claims includes some active-duty commanders serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Choi, a West Point graduate and combat veteran of Iraq, said his unit is aware that he’s gay, and added, “I’m very comfortable with all the repercussions right now. To me, it’s about doing the right thing, not about trying to fit into the process that gets you the rank or prevents you from getting a discharge....If that’s the repercussion, I’m ready to take it....I think it’s more important that I let everybody know that … it is a wrong policy.”
Groups such as the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network--which says that more than 12,500 men and women have been discharged under DADT since its implementation in 1994--actively lobby for the repeal of DADT, saying the policy is discriminatory and robs the military of critical skills. On the other hand, the Center for Military Readiness just as actively lobbies to keep the policy intact, arguing that a reversal “would impose new, unneeded burdens of sexual tension” on the military.
Sexual tension? Is there no heterosexual tension? Or is it that gays in the military are too sexual, because, you know, that's all we do.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., recently introduced legislation in Congress that would repeal DADT, and the next day, White House Spokesman Tommy Vietor said the president had begun consulting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen “so that this change is done in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and national security.”
Another Democrat, Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia, has asked for a monthly report on DADT discharges, including the eleven gay soldiers discharged by the Army in January. “At a time when our military’s readiness is strained to the breaking point from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the armed forces continue to discharge vital service members under the outdated, outmoded Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy,” Moran said. “Our allies have overcome this issue, facing no adverse consequences from lifting bans focused on soldiers’ sexual orientation...[and]...Polls show the American people overwhelmingly support repealing this policy....Yet how many more good soldiers are we willing to lose due to a bad policy that makes us less safe and secure?”