Two gay and lesbian soldiers discharged a day

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The American military discharges two lesbian, gay and bisexual recruit’s a day, according to a report.

New data obtained by Servicemembers Legal Defence Network (SLDN) indicates the armed forces continued to discharge two lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel per day in 2005.

The rate of discharge has remained relatively consistent each year since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and represents a 40% decrease compared with years prior to the attacks.

A total of 742 military personnel were discharged under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on openly gay service members, up from 668 discharges among the services in 2004.

“The time has come for the Pentagon to call on Congress to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,'” said SLDN executive director C Dixon Osburn.

“The law deprives our nation of thousands of skilled men and women who could be instrumental in fighting the war on terror. Our national security suffers because of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”

The Army discharged 386 soldiers in 2005, up from 325 the year before. The Air Force dismissed 88 airmen, down slightly from 92 in 2004; the Navy discharged 177 members, the same as the prior year; 75 Marines were discharged, up from 59 the year before; and the Coast Guard discharged 16 men and women, compared to 15 in 2004, the research suggests.

According to an analysis of 2000 census data by statistician Gary Gates, there are currently 65,000 gays serving in the armed forces. “Many gay and lesbian service members are out to colleagues, yet ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ still threatens to cut their careers short if they get caught in the crosshairs of this counterproductive law,” Mr Osburn added. According to Mr Gates, an additional 41,000 lesbian and gay Americans may enlist for military service if the ban were repealed.

The military’s need for qualified and experienced personnel also continues to grow. The San Antonio Express-News recently reported that the armed forces are facing a “major” officer shortage, including falling short by 2,500 captains and majors in the Army this year, with that number increasing to 3,300 in 2007.

In an attempt to attract new recruits and fill the gap, Pentagon leaders have recently relaxed enlistment standards regarding age, physical fitness, education and criminal records. The discharge of lesbian and gay Americans, however, continues.

A bi-partisan coalition in Congress now supports legislation to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1059), introduced in March 2005 by Congressman Marty Meehan (D-MA) now has 116 supporters, including five Republican lawmakers. Meehan’s legislation would repeal the military’s ban and allow lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel to serve openly in the armed forces.

Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, the first woman to achieve the three-star rank of Lieutenant General in the United States Army, also called earlier this month for Congress to repeal the military ban. “The Army teaches its soldiers, officers, NCOs and other enlisted personnel to live by seven values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honour, integrity, and courage.”

Ms Kennedy said in an interview with reporter Peter Cassels. “Tell me: which is only found in the heterosexual population?”