Gay army applicants test Don’t Ask policy

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Three openly gay applicants in Philadelphia were rejected by a local military recruiting centre on Tuesday because they are “morally and administratively ineligible,” one applicant said.

“Our applications were denied, none of us were accepted,” Jarrett Lucas, 20, told Philadelphia Daily News, outside the Army Recruiting Station.

Shane Bagwell, 18, of Wyndmoor, Montgomery County, wanted to join the Air Force. “I’m disappointed,” he said to The Daily News. “I hope one day things will be different.”

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the trio – Messrs Bagwell, Lucas and Marissa Cotroneo, 19, alerted the media of their intent to sign up for military duty and challenge the government’s 13-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans openly gay people from joining the military.

A representative for the recruiting station, Major Kelvin Cooper, stationed at Lakehurst Naval Base in New Jersey, told The Daily News, “The policy is what it is. Unless the senators in Congress want to change [the ban], we’ll abide by the order we are given,” he said.

Currently, a bill known as the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which proposes to lift the ban and replace it with a policy that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, was introduced in the House of Representatives in March 2005.

On Tuesday, the young adults entered the recruiting office at 11:07a.m. and emerged 70 minutes later, after a battery of tests.

“Once we were in there, we were up front about our sexuality,” Mr Lucas told reporters after the meeting. He added that the recruiter said, “If we’re serious about enlisting, we’d have to lie and conceal our sexual orientation.”

According to The Daily News, the recruiters “were asking if we were sincere about enlisting, and we told them we are sincere and are ready to go to boot camp if they accept us,” said Ms Cotroneo, of Scranton.

Major Cooper, the recruiting rep, questioned their motives. “If they truly wanted to sign up, they would have come without the media circus,” he said, stressing that recruiters simply enforce the federal ban, reports The Inquirer.

All three who attempted to enlist yesterday were associated with the Right to Serve Campaign of Soulforce, a group that campaigns for equal treatment for homosexuals and other sexual minorities.

Right to Serve estimates that there are 65,000 homosexuals serving in the US military and that 41,000 more would like to serve if they could be open about their sexual orientation.

Right to Serve conducted its first attempt by three openly gay people to enlist on May 30 near Minneapolis.

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