US military gay policy deteriorating female presence

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Women continue to be discharged at twice the rate of their presence in the armed forces under the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law banning openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, according to new data obtained by Servicemembers Legal Defence Network.

While women account for approximately 15 percent of the armed forces, they totalled 30 percent of those dismissed under the gay ban in fiscal year 2005.

In all, 219 women out of 726 service members were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Army reported discharging 146 women in 2005; the Navy, 31; the Air Force, 28; and the Marine Corps, 14.

“Women have a long and rich history of service to our country,” said SLDN executive director C Dixon Osburn. “Our nation is safer and more secure because of the contributions made by all women, including lesbian and bisexual women, in our armed forces. It is high time we honoured the service of these patriotic women by repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ once and for all.”

An October 2004 Urban Institute study revealed the long history of service by the lesbian community.

The study revealed that not only do the rates of service by coupled lesbians surpass that of other women, but that they serve longer than other women.

Of women ages 18-67 who served in the armed forces, over 80 percent of coupled lesbians reported having served more than two years, compared with 74 percent of other women.

More than 11,000 men and women have been dismissed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since the law was implemented. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), more than 800 of those had skills deemed “critical” by the Department of Defence, including linguistic training, medical skills and expertise in combat engineering.

Last month, former Army Major Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic candidate for Illinois’s 6th Congressional District, expressed strong support for repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

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