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Let Gays Serve Soldiers Say

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Let Gays Serve Soldiers Say

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

August 4, 2006 - 7:00 pm ET

(Washington) There is growing evidence few in the military care whether or not someone they serve with is gay, adding support to a move to repeal "don't Ask, Don't Tell", the ban on gays serving openly.

Following the dismissal late last month of an Army linguist, the Fayetteville Observer surveyed troops at Fort Bragg, NC.

Bleu Copas, 30,a decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist at Fort Bragg was dismissed even though he says he never admitted being gay and his accuser was never identified. (story)

Copas is gay, but said he was "outed" by a stream of anonymous e-mails to his superiors in the 82nd Airborne Division.

The Observer put the question of gays in the military to a random sample of 20 soldiers at the base and found little support for the ban.

"If you are doing your job, you fall into the same category as anyone else," a former drill sergeant serving at the base said.

"It's political. The Army has to have a public face," said an 82nd paratrooper at Fort Bragg. "When you look at the commercials, you see soldiers doing their jobs. You don't see his personal life."

Although the sample survey was small it's results were not a surprise said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

"Men and women in the ranks and on the frontlines understand that sexual orientation is irrelevant when it comes to job performance," said Osburn.

"Our armed forces, which led the way on civil rights for African Americans and women, is falling woefully behind when it comes to ending anti- gay discrimination. The American people do not support 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' nor do the service members who report for duty every day. The drumbeat for repeal grows louder every day."

A poll released last year shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans believe gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military.

The survey, by the Boston Globe, also shows that party affiliation, age, or church attendance had little effect on their opinion.

The Globe poll follows other polls showing growing support for allowing gays to serve openly. Recent Gallup polls have reported between 65 percent and 79 percent support for lifting the military's gay ban.

An Annenberg Survey reported that half of junior enlisted personnel and their families support allowing gays to serve. And in 2003, FOX News reported 64 percent support for allowing gays to serve.

The Department of Defense has discharged more than 11,000 service members since 1993 under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 800 of those service members were trained in skills deemed ‘mission-critical’ by the Pentagon.

Last month the military was forced to apologize when it was revealed that a a Pentagon document listing various "disorders" included the reference to homosexuality decades after mental health experts abandoned that position.

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 about 120 supporters, including five Republican lawmakers. Meehan’s legislation would repeal the military’s ban and allow lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel to serve openly in the armed forces.

"Over the course of the last year, I questioned high-ranking members of the armed forces, active duty military personnel, veterans, military families, members of the LGBT community, my congressional colleagues and other interested groups," Rep. Susan Davis (D-Ca.) recently said while announcing her support for repeal.

"After consulting this diverse sounding board, it is clear to me that the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy is a political invention that does not serve the real needs of our armed forces and should be repealed."

©365Gay.com 2006

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