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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

"Don't Ask Don't Tell" Has Lasting Impact

Michelle Baron |
September 23, 2011 | 2:42 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

(Adam Fagan, Creative Commons)
(Adam Fagan, Creative Commons)
Many people are unaware of the full impact of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT)
 on homosexual individuals. The
 name “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” itself contributes to this lack of awareness because it oversimplifies the meaning of the policy 
in the lives of homosexual military service members.

“The wording of it is really misleading because it makes people think 
that under the policy you could be gay, lesbian, and bisexual and
 serve, but just not talk about it. But it’s a lot more than that,”
 stated Jeremy Johnson, a
 former First Class officer of the United States Navy who was
 discharged in 2007. “You give up so much of yourself in order to
 pursue a job that you love. You give up your relationships, you’re
 willing to lie to people… it’s a field full of land mines.”

The policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell not only caused many service members to hide their identity in order to keep their jobs, but it also prevented perfectly qualified service members from receiving the same benefits heterosexual couples enjoy.

Heterosexual service members receive additional pay when they are
 given an assignment that prevents their family from coming along – under DADT, homosexual service members were denied this benefit.

The spouses of heterosexual service members are legally entitled to
 certain health benefits, to which homosexual couples were not entitled under 
DADT. For example, designating a partner as a life insurance 
beneficiary or as a caregiver in the Wounded Warrior program was 
legally prohibited for homosexual service members under DADT. Partners of members were also not able to receive military health insurance
 or have access to a support group while their partner was overseas, 
reports Mother Jones.

Additionally, according to The Washington Post,
 homosexual service members did not have access to family support 
services provided by the military, services that often serve as crucial conduits
 of information regarding what forms of assistance are available and 
how to take advantage of them.

If a service member is killed, his or her partner would be denied the
 same financial support that heterosexual families receive. Unless the 
two had children together, the partner might not even have been the first to 
know about the death.

“On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I had a meeting at the 
Pentagon that adjourned at 9:30. I was at the bus stop when the plane 
hit the Pentagon. As it turned out, the space I was in 7 minutes 
earlier had been completely destroyed, and seven of my co-workers were 
killed. I realized that if I had been killed, my partner quite 
literally would have been the last to know, because I was unable to put her name in any emergency contact information,” retired Captain Joan
 Darrah remarked. “The events of September 11th made us realize that we really
 were making a much bigger sacrifice because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
 Living under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell meant [my partner] didn’t exist.”

Karen, a second year political science student from the University of
 Hawaii, told Neon Tommy:

“I used to think DADT was appropriately
 placed. I thought that DADT protected service members from atrocities 
they would have faced if they went around telling people they were 
homosexual. I thought that the military was doing the homosexual
 community a favor… because people in the military probably would be 
better off getting fired than beat up if their homosexuality was
 revealed… I had no idea what DADT further implied… and I didn’t
 realize that homosexual service members join fully aware of the risks 
of discrimination. I now understand that DADT, in effect, only
 encouraged discrimination… it was for the good of no one, not even the

It is important to keep in mind, however, that although DADT as an official policy has legally 
ended, the negative effects of the policy will not necessarily be
 lifted or even alleviated in every scenario.

While the official end of DADT is a historic landmark, unresolved
 issues with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and military 
regulations mean that service members and their partners in same-sex
 relationships will continue to suffer second-class treatment, writes
 Adam Serwer,
 a reporter for Mother Jones.

Dr. Aaron Belkin, author of How We Won: Progressive Lessons From the
 Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," however, reminds homosexual service 
members to consider the repeal a stepping stone to the ultimate goal 
of full equality. He says that with DADT gone, DOMA, and the hardship
 it continues to place on the families of gay and lesbian service 
members, may not be long for this world either.

"If you look at the countries around the world that have marriage
 equality, the lifting of the military ban almost always comes first," 
Belkin says. "[It] sends a very powerful message that it's wrong to
 discriminate and that gays and lesbians are first-class citizens and 
deserve the same rights as everybody else."


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