Gay Military Dismissals Drop
The number of gays dismissed from the military under the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has dropped to its lowest level in nine years as U.S. forces fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a report by an advocacy group.
The military discharged 787 gays and lesbians last year, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which attributed the decline to the importance of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The figure marks a 17% decrease from 2002 and a 39% drop from 2001, just before the conflicts began in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“You have to ask yourself, and you have to ask the Pentagon, why are the discharges going down?” said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of the advocacy group and one of the report’s authors. “When they need people, they keep them. When they don’t, they implement their policy of discrimination with greater force.”
A Pentagon spokeswoman said officials could not comment on the report because they had not seen it.
The military’s policy on gays, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” has been in place since 1994. It allows gays to serve in uniform if they don’t reveal their sexual orientation.
The military has discharged nearly 10,000 people for violations of the policy since it took effect, according to the report.
The number of gays discharged increased steadily from 1994 to 1998. Dismissals decreased slightly in 1999 but then increased until peaking at 1,273 discharges in 2001.
All the services except for the Air Force dismissed fewer gays last year than the year before. The Air Force dismissed 142 people for violating “don’t ask, don’t tell,” up from 121 in 2002.