Will The DADT Repeal Deprive LGB Soldiers Of A Badly Needed “Get Out Of Jail Free” Card?

It may seem odd that an anti-gay law has now given gays who don’t wanna be in the military the option to honorably discharge without much adieu. It’s apparently so common a practice that even military members call such voluntary discharges ‘using a rainbow card.’ But while anti-war activists may celebrate any policy that helps keep people off the battlefield, using DADT in such a way also has negative consequences.

For one, the option to honorably discharge at any moment casts committed gay and lesbian service members in an undependable light; as people always potentially ready to jump ship. Some gay and straight service members even view self-imposed withdrawals under DADT as shameful.

People who enlist in the military sign up to serve as equals with the same obligations and devices keeping them from not completing their contractual obligation. Everyone goes through phases in the military where they want to get out—years of such obligation can prove intimidating and frustrating. But the contract keeps everyone fulfilling their obligations, helping them get past that period and build unit cohesion and military loyalty.

The military provides training, food, and living accommodations in exchange for an expected amount of service around which they plan miltiary activities, deployments, filling in quotas of skill sets and such. If a service member can simply throw in a towel and get out, that screws up those plans. In short, using DADT as a “rainbow card” undermines military readiness.

But what’s more troubling is that these four self-imposed discharges aren’t the only DADT discharges currently happening. Yesterday, Army Veteran and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis made the following statement:

Unfortunately, SLDN has a client right now who was recently recommended for discharge at a board hearing, and his paperwork is headed to the Navy Secretary. He made no statement, and he wants to continue serving. We have another client who is having a board hearing later this week, and if this senior enlisted person is recommended for discharge, her paperwork will likely be before the Navy Secretary in short order. She, too, wishes to continue serving. Let me be clear. At SLDN, we have scores of clients who have been advised they are under DADT investigations. Some of these clients have between 10 and 15 years of honorable service, few made voluntary statements, and none to my knowledge has asked to be ‘separated expeditiously.’ For these service members, especially, certification and final repeal cannot come soon enough. The continued stress of investigations and the risk of separation under DADT is real and very much imminent.

So while DADT’s slow repeal may seem a boon to lesbians and gays looking to get out of the military early, the policy still undoubtedly harms the lives of LG service members who’d rather see their service out to the end.