The New York Times has a good story out Monday morning, Sept. 5, about how some of the more than 13,000 LGBT servicemembers discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell want to re-enlist but face many obstacles. One of the biggest, The Times points out, is that the military is downsizing and may not have room.
Another is the issue of the discharge itself – if it was less than honorable, they need not apply. But under the original ban on gays serving openly – just being gay was dishonorable. That was essentially codified in 1993 under DADT when saying you were gay was sufficient to prove that you would most likely engage in illegal sexual behavior, ie sodomy. The military cared not a whit that the US Supreme Court overturned laws against sodomy as unconstitutional.
Log Cabin Republican lawyer Dan Woods made the point during oral arguments before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Sept. 1 – that declaring LCR’s DADT lawsuit moot because of the repeal of the law on Sept. 20 still left many gays with a permanent mark on their record. When District Court Judge Virginia Phillips declared the DADT law unconstitutional, that included the original ban upon which the law was based. But if the 9th Circuit agrees with the Justice Department’s argument that DADT is constitutional and declares the law moot and nullifies Phillips’ decision – those originally dishonorably discharged gays will be left out in the cold with their only recourse being a costly individual lawsuit to clear their name.
Here’s an excerpt of The Times story:
They lived shadow lives in the military, afraid that disclosure of their sexuality would ruin carefully plotted careers. Many were deeply humiliated by drawn-out investigations and unceremonious discharges.
Yet despite their bitter partings with the armed forces, many gay men and lesbians who were discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy say they want to rejoin the service, drawn by a life they miss or stable pay and benefits they could not find in civilian life…..
Though the Pentagon says it will welcome their applications, former service members discharged for homosexuality will not be granted special treatment. They will have to pass physical fitness tests and prove that they have skills the armed services need right now. Some will have aged to the point that they will need waivers to get back in.
Even if they pass those hurdles, there is no guarantee that they will go back to their former jobs or ranks. And because the armed services are beginning to shrink, some will be rejected because there are no available slots.
People discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” who wish to return to service “will be evaluated according to the same criteria and requirements applicable to all others seeking re-entry into the military,” said Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “The services will continue to base accessions of prior-service members on the needs of the service and the skills and qualifications of the applicants.”
To be eligible for re-enlistment, former service members cannot have been discharged under “other than honorable conditions,” Ms. Lainez said. The majority of people released under the policy since 1993 — a significant number of them highly trained intelligence analysts and linguists — received honorable discharges. [Emphasis mine]