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Gay Vets Remember Fallen Comrades

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Gay Vets Remember Fallen Comrades

by Doreen Brandt, 365Gay.com Washington Bureau

May 29, 2006 - 12:01 am ET

(Washington) As the nation observes the sacrifices of those in the military this Memorial Day, hundreds of gay and lesbian veterans are remembering LGBT fallen comrades.

It is impossible to make even a guess at the number of gays who have served their country in uniform since the American Revolution, but what is known is that openly gay officers have routinely been drummed out of the service. Even "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" the legislation signed by President Clinton that was to removed the military's right to capriciously investigate the private lives of those in the military is a failure.

Last week a group advocating for LGBTs in the military said that newly released data for 2005 shows that an average of two people a day are being discharged for being gay.

A total of 742 military personnel were discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2005, up from 668 discharges among the services in 2004, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network said.

According to an analysis of 2000 census data by statistician Gary Gates, there are currently 65,000 gays serving in the armed forces.

A study done last year by the Government Accountability Office showed that more than 10,000 service members have been discharged over the last 10 years under "don't ask, don't tell".

The GAO also reported that it has cost taxpayers more than $200 million to recruit replacements for LGBT enlisted service members who were discharged.

Yet, while the Pentagon refuses to consider lifting the ban on out gays serving, it acknowledges that it is unable meet to its recruitment goals

According to Gates, an additional 41,000 lesbian and gay Americans may enlist for military service if the ban were repealed.

A bi-partisan coalition in Congress now supports legislation to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1059), introduced in March 2005 by Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA) now has 116 supporters, including five Republican lawmakers.

The ban on gays is also being challenged in court. SLDN which is representing 12 former members of the military who want to return to active duty said it would appeal a decision last month to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DADT.

A similar suit is under way in California, brought by Log Cabin Republicans on behalf of its members who are in the military.

©365Gay.com 2006

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