The Status of Dismissed Gay Troops: An Ethics Test For The GOP

Stars and Stripes reports that a group of House Democrats has proposed that troops  dismissed under the now repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” law should be able to apply for honorable discharge status if it had been initially denied to them, thus permitting them to receive veterans benefits.

House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), and two Democratic committee member suggested to Defense Secretary Gates that such individuals should be allowed to petition the boards of correction to upgrade their status to an honorable discharge, if they received a lesser status. Department of Veterans Affairs rules restrict eligibility for some health benefits. They are also not eligible for benefits of the GI Bill,  may be refused veterans home loans because they were not honorably discharged.

Service men removed from the service because of the inherently discriminatory “Don’t ask” policy, will, in short, be denied the benefits due to those who served their country purely and only because they are gay.

Smith and his colleagues deserve credit and thanks for seeking to remedy this injustice, for which there can be no ethical argument. The conferring of less than honorable discharge status was not even established military policy. Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of pro-repeal Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told Stars and Stripes that most of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” dismissals were honorable discharges, but that there were many cases where troops were given lesser status simply because of a commander’s negative views on homosexuality. Since 1993, over 14,000 troops were dismissed from the military under the law.

This is an obvious ethics test for Republicans and their Tea Party brethren, many of whom opposed the repeal of “Don’t ask…”. There are core constituents who still support second class citizen status for gay Americans, and for these citizens the plight of gay soldiers kicked out of the Armed Services because they were not heterosexual is a just penalty, even though their discharge status may permanently handicap their future career prospects. The lack of an honorable discharge can act as a an automatic bar to some employment, such as government contracts, law enforcement, or legal work. Despite the biases of their supporters, Republicans have an ethical and a patriotic duty to support Smith’s proposal. The only reasons for doing otherwise are mean-spiritedness, bigotry, and cynical pandering to the worst instincts of their constituency.

Quickly effecting this change is a clear matter of righting a wrong. If the vast majority of G.O.P. leaders and legislators do not actively exert their influence to accomplishing this task, it will be shameful indictment of their values and courage, and that of their party.


14 thoughts on “The Status of Dismissed Gay Troops: An Ethics Test For The GOP

  1. I’d say that if the Republicans (or any loyal veterans, for that matter) have any sense of ethics, honor and duty, they’d reject Smith’s political posturing outright. There is no question of “bigotry”… unless you accept the outrageous premise that perversion is the equivalent of race or religion. The major issue is the integrity and character of our institutions, of which the Armed Forces are a critical example.

  2. I am a “loyal veteran” (3 yrs Engineer enlisted man, 4 yrs Infantry officer) with, I hope, a sense of ethics, honor and duty. I do not see Rep. Smith as “posturing”, but as amending an obvious injustice.

    (No, I’m not a member of the LGBT community. But what difference would that make?)

  3. I am ignorant of a lot of this area, but I am wondering how much effort is really needed to do this. Since it was not the policy of the military to refuse an honorable discharge (I am guessing they got general discharges?) then the military policy was not followed. I would be surprised if the the military doesn’t have a procedure for people to challenge such decisions that were made contrary to military policy. I am assuming that the military channels are blocking such challenges and that is the problem. Shouldn’t President Obama be able to tell the military to let such challenges through? Basically, I am wondering why the legislative branch needs to be involved in this.

    • It doesn’t involve the legislative branch; that’s right—although it certainly could, just as the original law did. I think the Rep.’s position is meant to create some momentum in this direction and public support for a general policy. You did read Steven’s comment, right?

  4. Presidents and the Congress, until fairly recently, rarely involved themselves in questions of military justice, preferring to allow the Armed Forces to deal with questions involving good order and discipline. They once recognized that military justice had to be based on different parameters from civil justice, given the military’s unique mission. The concept had always been that, while the President is, indeed, the constitutional commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, his role is primarily to define the mission. Carrying it out is that of the Forces’ leadership themselves. Thus, the slippery slope of using them for political purposes is avoided. Historically, liberal Presidents and Congresses (whose role is oversight and funding) fare poorly in upholding this concept. This case, I believe, is one of those. To inflict upon the ranks the presence of known, practicing perverts (and in time of war, no less) cannot have any other purpose by to play up to what has become an important constituency in the Democrat Party. It’s potential for disruption in the ranks and subsequent intrusion into the province of military justice and standards of conduct are (moral implications aside) both a detriment and a dangerous precedent.

    • Steven: I don’t see how the “practicing perverts” issue is relevant to the honorable discharge issue. If the law permitted gay soldiers, then by definition, a soldier being gay and a gay soldier serving was not a violation of military rules, law or conduct. Sexual relations between soldiers is a conduct breach no matter what genders are involved. But if a gay soldier is outed by his telling the truth or the revelation of another, it makes no sense to call that misconduct—the soldier didn’t do anything, and the truth cannot be an offense. You can object to DADT and gays in the military, but under the rules in effect, I don’t see how you can argue that a dishonorable discharge can be supported by a soldier’s orientation alone—not if the military has tacitly agreed that it is acceptable as long as it isn’t revealed.

      • Dear Jack: I’d respond by noting that President Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was, itself, an unwarranted intrusion into military justice of the kind which I previously referred. Historically, the military has made sodomy and other perverse acts a crime of the highest order and banished such persons when caught. Again; they have done this not out of “bigotry” or for political motive, but rather due to the realities of military conditions… which are many and compelling.

        When the UCMJ, orders of a superior officer or the recognized codes of conduct are broken, a state of affairs detrimental to good order and discipline exists. Such cases must be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Otherwise, the entire system suffers. As a member of the Regular Army back in the 1970’s, I saw the results of a breakdown in discipline and morale brought on- both directly and indirectly- by political intrusion. It took a massive reordering of the Armed Forces in the 1980’s (inspired- but not directed- by President Reagan) to set things right after that debacle.

  5. Dear TGT: I’m a retired military cop. After 22 years plus of service in this category, don’t you think I’d know a little about what I’ve been saying? Sorry if that intrudes on your precious worldview, but there it is. Deal with it.

    • Hey, didn’t I say I’d trust you on history? I’ve picked up on your service and for actual facts, I’m deferring to your knowledge.

      I just don’t trust your color commentary.

      Paragraph 1: mostly color commentary. Paragraph 2: mostly history.

  6. Pingback: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repealed: How Do You Feel About It? | 303 MAGAZINE

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