Imagine being in the heat of war, a place where trust is needed most. Imagine, however, that in the heat of war you cannot trust your fellow soldier because of personal tensions within the unit. It was this problem that the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was designed to avoid, the tension caused between soldiers when homosexuals are serving openly. Without this policy, homosexuals serving openly could create tension that interferes with the military’s effectiveness. While it may not be obvious at first, the policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” actually supports the both values of the military and the rights of homosexuals. As a result, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is needed to protect homosexual service members and is crucial in securing military effectiveness.
Throughout history openly practicing homosexuals have not been accepted in the United States Armed Forces. During the American Revolution and the Civil War, while no military code actually addressed homosexuals, anyone found committing homosexual acts was dishonorably discharged (Walke). With the turn of the century, the U.S. military actively began prohibiting and prosecuting homosexual acts (Walke). Throughout the 20th century, individuals seeking to serve in the military were prohibited from serving if they had a history of homosexual activity. With his election in 1994, President Bill Clinton sought to change this prohibition. However, once in office he met opposition from military leadership. As a result, a compromise between the Clinton administration, military officials and conservatives brought about the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is the official policy of the U.S. Department of Defense towards homosexuals in the military. Members of the armed forces are prohibited from conducting sexual relations or revealing their sexual orientation; at the same time, superiors are not allowed to inquire about a soldiers’ sexual orientation” (Bowman).
This policy was created to secure the military’s effectiveness but also to protect homosexuals.
Without “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” homosexuals are subject to more discrimination and abuse. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” protects homosexuals from the most harmful situations. A large number of the military members join at a young age, shortly after graduating from high school. They are often from small towns and conservative backgrounds, and as a result they have less exposure to the homosexual lifestyle (Beattie). This means the majority of incoming soldiers may not be as accepting towards homosexuals, which could result in harassment and abuse. The “Winchell Case” is a good example of what could happen if an open policy is enacted (Walke).
In 1999, Private Barry Winchell was killed by another soldier. An
investigation revealed that Winchell’s fellow officers had discovered he was homosexual and had been harassing him for months before the fatal assault. If Winchell’s superiors had followed the current policy, than he...