Even after Obama-Gates-Mullen certify the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the law dies sixty days later, the Pentagon won’t start counting how many homosexuals are joining the ranks, nor will it try to figure out how many of you are already enlisted. While the military can still legally discriminate against gay servicemembers, sexuality will, officially, be considered “a personal and private matter.” Which means even any attempt to start a tally on straights and gays will be forbidden. (The only exception? “[W]hen it is an essential part of an otherwise appropriate investigation or other official action,” according to Clifford L. Stanley, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, who’s handling the post-repeal process.) Why such a big deal? Because this is the one time the military won’t be collecting such “personal and private” details; it already counts which troops subscribe to which religious beliefs, whether they’re married, and what percentage has a penis between his legs. So should we be glad the Pentagon wants to stay out of our personal matters? Nope.
Not when it means the Defense Department will, on purpose, collect zero data about how many servicemembers it is denying same-sex partner benefits to. And housing allowances. And travel assistance. Those are the very fundamental figures we need to be able to make the case that the military’s policies still discriminate against a vast number of brave Americans.
Instead of adding a checkbox to personnel forms, or conducting an anonymous questionnaire, the Pentagon wants to be completely blind to sexual orientation. Which on the face of it, is a good thing — because sexuality, like race and sex, shouldn’t be a factor in personnel matters like promotions. Unlike race and sex, sexuality is something harder to track without asking the right questions. And without those questions, we’ll have no idea if, say, the Marines appear to be purposefully keeping gay and lesbian servicemembers from high-ranking jobs. If the data were collected, a simple glance at an Excel spreadsheet would tell wonders.
All this, from a government agency that spent more than $4 million asking servicemembers (and their families) whether they’d be able to live knowing their comrades are gays. Yet not a penny will be spent to learn, in the weeks and months and years after DADT dies, if gay and lesbian troops are doing okay.