Recently, four airmen have voluntarily discharged from the Air Force under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That is, they outed themselves and asked for a speedy discharge despite the imminence of the policy’s repeal. Airman 1st Class Albert Pisani, asked for an expedited discharge because of anti-gay harassment—a supervisor even told Pisani to expect an increase in anti-gay “friendly fire” deaths (presumably from homophobic servicemen) after the repeal gets lifted.
We don’t know the details behind the three most recent discharges, but is it possible that DADT has actually helped some lesbian and gay service members avoid anti-gay harassment and possibly even murder?
You see, military protocol directs service members to report any harassment up the chain of command: first to their commander, then eventually to an Equal Opportunity officer, and then finally to the Inspector General (a figure meant to act outside of the command in case of issues that arise within the chain of command itself).
Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United echoes this sentiment: “The Pentagon has made it abundantly clear that… it is more than willing to deal with any lingering harassment issues through the chain of command or, in the case of command involvement, the base’s or post’s Inspector General’s office.”
But Pisani didn’t want to wait for the EO officer or IG to resolve his issue because he says that the Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) program only bars discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, sex, and religion, among other characteristics… NOT sexual orientation. “It’s definitely a flaw,” he said. “This needs to be changed before gay service members can feel safe.”
But according to Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “There’s no special policy needed to address the things that we’re talking about here with regard to taking care of people and treating them with dignity. That’s so fundamentally basic. So the remedies you have are the remedies that already exist. There’s no need to create new remedies.”
But is Stanley right? Wouldn’t it behoove the military to explicitly add sexual orientation to the protected classes listed in the MEO or would that violate US laws since LGBT identity has not yet attained federal legal recognition as a protected class?