Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Hits Women Much More...
[2008-06-23 NY Times]
‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Hits Women Much More
By THOM SHANKER
June 23, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Army and Air Force discharged a disproportionate
number of women in 2007 under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that
prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military, according to
Pentagon statistics gathered by an advocacy group.
While women make up 14 percent of Army personnel, 46 percent of those
discharged under the policy last year were women. And while 20 percent
of Air Force personnel are women, 49 percent of its discharges under
the policy last year were women.
By comparison for 2006, about 35 percent of the Army’s discharges and
36 percent of the Air Force’s were women, according to the statistics.
The information was gathered under a Freedom of Information Act
request by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a policy advocacy
“Women make up 15 percent of the armed forces, so to find they
represent nearly 50 percent of Army and Air Force discharges under
‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is shocking,” said Aubrey Sarvis, the
organization’s executive director. “Women in particular have been
caught in the crosshairs of this counterproductive law.”
The organization compiled gender statistics on the discharges, but
conducted no formal set of interviews and thus could offer no
verifiable reason for the increase in women separated from the
military under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The Pentagon in recent days released overall numbers of discharges
under the policy for 2007, without a breakdown by gender.
Over all, the number of gay men and lesbians discharged from the
military in 2007 rose to 627 from 612 a year before, according to
Pentagon statistics. Those figures represent a drop of about 50
percent from a peak in 2001, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite stress on the armed forces from two wars, the Pentagon is not
advocating a change in policy, saying it is up to Congress to decide
whether the law should be altered or repealed.
November was the 14th anniversary of the legislation that allows gay
men and lesbians to serve in the military, but only if they keep their
sexual orientation secret.
Advocacy groups say that 65,000 gay men and lesbians serve in the
American armed forces and that there are more than one million gay
Early last year, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff when the policy was adopted, argued for its
repeal, saying that conversations with military personnel had prompted
him to change his position.
“I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the
United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the
armed forces,” General Shalikashvili wrote in an Op-Ed article
published in The New York Times on Jan. 2, 2007. “Our military has
been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must
welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the
According to the statistics, the Army in 2007 discharged 302 soldiers
under the policy, up from 280 the year before. The Air Force dismissed
91 people, down from 102 in 2006. The Navy discharged 166, the same as
in 2006. The Marine Corps discharged 68, up from 64 in 2006.
“Separated members have the opportunity to continue to serve their
nation and national security by putting their abilities to use by way
of civilian employment with other federal agencies, the Department of
Defense or in the private sector, such as with a government
contractor,” said Eileen M. Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman on
personnel issues. “We expect all service members to be treated with
dignity and respect all the time.”
Pentagon officials could not explain why the numbers for women spiked
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
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