aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Renewed war over ‘dont ask, don’t tell’
The inflammatory headline courtesy of Newsweek:
With the Democrats in control of Congress, some activists are hoping they’ll add a controversial issue to their to-do list: revisiting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. Gay servicemembers have sought a policy change for years. Now, says Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, gay vets hope they might make some progress at a time when the military can’t afford to turn away the willing and able. Last year the Pentagon discharged 742 service members for homosexuality, according to SLDN.
But making a change won’t be easy: gay-rights advocates have seen a troubling signal from the Pentagon. Massachusetts Rep. Martin Meehan and the American Psychiatric Association complained last June when they learned the military’s disability policy classified homosexuality as a mental disorder-something the APA stopped doing in 1973. Then the Pentagon quietly reclassified it in July. Last week Meehan and the APA complained once more: homosexuality has now been grouped with other “conditions, circumstances and defects” like bed-wetting, repeated venereal-disease infections and obesity. The reclassification is “even worse,” says Aaron Belkin, who studies gays in the military at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Now [homosexuality] is explicitly deemed to be a defect.” Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith says the Defense Department does “not think homosexuality is a mental illness” and says the classification could be re-examined.
Newsweek concludes, “there is still a long war ahead.” Relative to the centuries we’ve been fighting this prejudice, I don’t expect it will be long at all.