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The Harm of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Leading Double Lives, Dismissals and Making America Less Safe

In the wake of the Senate’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell hearings, it’s been a week of all things military around here. And there’s so much to read! Much of it is repetitive: DADT bad! DADT good! McCain sucks! Yay McMullen! You get the idea. But we also love the more anecdotal stories and informed reports surfacing about the discriminatory military policy, so allow us to share a few of our favorites.

Retired Navy Capt. Joan E. Darrah served almost 30 years with the Navy and was chief of staff and deputy commander at the Office of Naval Intelligence. And she’s gay. In this CNN piece, she talks about her “secret life” living under DADT, from realizing (while enlisted) she was gay to her burgeoning double life with partner Lynne Kennedy.

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Former Air Force Maj. Mike Almy, honorably discharged in 2006 under DADT after 13 years of service, tells NPR about how a senior ranking officer stumbled upon his private emails, which led to a full-blown (lawyer-less) investigation. Of some 500 emails retrieved, a handful were used to conclude Almy is gay, and that was that. Had Defense Sec. Robert Gates’ plan to prohibit third-party outings from leading to dismissals already been implemented, Almy believes he’d still be serving. If the military will have him back, he says he’d return to service. (Interview embedded at right.)

Army Sgt. Justin Graff, currently serving in southern Afghanistan, tells the Associated Press, in an article saying the DADT debate doesn’t matter much to soldiers there, “Do I care if someone is gay? I have no qualms.” Military spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks says that while it’s “inappropriate” to discuss defense department policy, there’s no gag order on soldiers discussing gays in the military.

Retired Navy Com. Beth Coye — who is gay and dismissed an estimated 8-10 women herself — tells WNYC’s Brian Leher about how women are often absent from the DADT debate. All the more harmful because women are disproportionately discharged under the policy. (Interview embedded at left.)

Former Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, who enlisted in 2002 and served in Iraq, was honorably discharged in 2008 after appearing on 60 Minutes to talk about being gay in the armed forces. To those who say military gays should stay in the closet, Manzella tells WGRZ, “I would say think about your husband and your wife and think about not being able to speak at all about your loved one.”

Danny Kaplan writes in Foreign Policy about how Israel is a safer country because it repealed, some seventeen years ago, its own ban on gays in the military. He notes: “The United States and Turkey are now the only NATO military powers that do not allow gays to serve openly, but Israel and other countries have shown that the participation of gay soldiers in combat units presents no risk for military effectiveness. What’s more, acknowledging their presence might even improve unite cohesion.”

The BBC compares the differences of the U.S. and British militaries when it comes to gay troops. Britain, which nixed its own DADT policy 10 years ago, did not suffer mass resignations when gays were given the OK — although just like in the U.S., the idea of retention problems was floated. Falsely, it turns out.

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