Support Crumbling for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," NGLTF Says
Dec. 14, 1999-Several recent events, statements by political leaders and recently
released polling data all are coming together to show that the "Don't Ask,
Don't Tell, Don't Pursue," policy toward gays and lesbians serving in the
military may be crumbling under the combined weight of hypocrisy and discrimination,
the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said today.
Within the past week, the following events have occurred:
- A report released by the Policy Institute of NGLTF shows that 70 percent
of U.S. residents support the right of gays and lesbians to serve in the military,
up from 55 percent in 1992. This figure includes 57 percent of self-identified
conservatives, 70 percent of moderates and 91 percent of liberals.
- Vice President Al Gore, in a strongly worded statement, called for elimination
of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Another Democratic presidential candidate,
Bill Bradley, had issued a similar call earlier in the campaign season. "In
light of the Winchell case and other evidence, I believe the 'Don't Ask, Don't
Tell' policy should be eliminated," Gore said. "Gays and lesbians
should be allowed to serve their country without discrimination."
- The U.S. Army continues to hound Steve May, an Arizona state legislator
and Army reservist. Despite the fact that May had been rated "one of
the finest young officers" in the Army by his superiors, the U.S. Army
is moving forward with plans to discharge May after he said he is gay during
a floor debate before the Arizona Legislature.
- President Clinton came out strongly this past weekend over the way "Don't
Ask, Don't Tell" has been implemented. "The policy as implemented
does not work as I announced and as the leaders of the military at that time
in 1993 pledged to implement it," Clinton said.
- Hillary Clinton, appearing at a New York fundraiser, said that if she is
elected to the U.S. Senate, she will work to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't
Tell." "Gays and lesbians already serve with distinction in our
nation's armed forces and should not face discrimination," she said.
"Fitness to serve should be based on an individual's conduct, not their
- A Fort Campbell, Ky., soldier was convicted of brutally murdering Pfc.
Barry Winchell and sentenced to life in prison. Pfc. Winchell was murdered
after an Army sergeant violated Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by asking Winchell
about his sexual orientation, and after rumors regarding Winchell circulated
throughout his Army barracks. Winchell was harassed and hounded in the months
before his death.
- The number of gays and lesbians discharged from the military because of
their sexual orientation increased 86 percent from 1993-the year the policy
was implemented-to 1998, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
- While the military is rooting out gay and lesbian servicemembers, all branches
of the armed services are experiencing an enlistment crisis, in part because
of the booming civilian economy. In fiscal 1999, the U.S. Army fell 8 percent
short of its recruiting goals.
"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is dying," said NGLTF Political Director
Rebecca Isaacs. "This policy is simply wrong and 57 percent of conservatives
and 70 percent of moderates agree that gays and lesbians should be able to serve
without discrimination. Yet only two candidates for president have called for
eliminating 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' It is obvious that some politicians are
out of touch with their constituents. This policy is ruining lives and ruining
careers and it is time that we elected a president and a Congress that will
allow all gays and lesbians to serve their country."
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