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Commentary: Time for military to dump DADT policy

Its name is prejudice. Some might believe the illusion that the prejudice toward LGBT people has sharply diminished.

The Washington Post in February published a new poll indicating that 75 percent support lifting the ban on gays. Also in February, the Military Times published a poll showing that 51 percent of service members support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT); keeping the ban.

The disparate demographics between the military and civilian are a huge barricade of separation. There are causes and related effects for why there is a higher level of prejudice toward LGBT in the Department of Defense (DOD). It has nothing to do with either unit cohesion or military readiness and everything to do with the institution ultimately being a discriminatory environment for all LGBT employees; military, civilian, and aligned contractors.

Keep in mind that the Department of Defense is run by civilian political appointees. The head military officer is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, and he must follow the direction he is given from the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

As a civilian political appointee, Gates is supposed to work toward the same strategic goals and objectives of the commander in chief, President Barack Obama. A highly skilled, very experienced political appointee can appear cooperative and still aim the ship in his own direction. This is the nature of politics within the federal government.

I refer to this technique of artificial cooperation as “Yes, but.” Our DADT “Yes, but” is the 11-month analysis prior to repeal of DADT.

During my active duty days, I learned to measure leadership on the basis of the answer to one question. “Would I follow that person into battle?” The answer is important, because what is at risk is life. Having heard Admiral Mullen explain why he supports the repeal of DADT, I would follow him into the cave complex situated in the White Mountains of eastern Afghanistan known as Tora Bora. He spelled out the discrimination toward LGBT in the most elegant yet firm fashion.

He said: "Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution."

Remember, he was speaking only from his own perspective, because this is not a common view among other noteworthy people within the Department of Defense.

When Gates spoke, it appeared he was following the commander in chief’s instructions. Interviews that followed with Gates revealed more details of the “analysis.” The devil is definitely in those details.

As an expert in change management and analysis, I view this 11-month analysis with deep concern and consider it unnecessary. It is designed to find the effects on unit cohesion from service members serving openly by determining what the “Service members negative perceptions about LGBT are.”

The anti-LGBT prejudice stereotyping is already common knowledge and can easily be obtained via the Center for Military Readiness website. That information can be utilized as the basis for creating a change management prototype to overcome those irrational perceptions. The prototype should be tested on a non-deployed unit that has just returned from the war zone. The service members would be surveyed before and after the training to measure their confidence, commitment and readiness for the change.

The change is LGBT serving openly. Results would be reviewed; the training improved, and then repeats of the process to construct the best possible course. The total time is no more than six to nine weeks. Bottom line, repeal DADT immediately; our equality should not be delayed.

In 1948, President Harry S Truman's Executive Order 9981 ordered the racial integration of the military shortly after World War II. Using the executive order meant that Truman could circumvent Congress.

Representatives of the South were all white Democrats and would likely have stonewalled related legislation. Those Democrats were referred to as the Dixiecrats. After the Democratic presidential leadership in the 1960s advanced civil rights, the Dixiecrats left the party.

Even today, racism can be found throughout the nation including the military. Expectations of results to be obtained from change management training about LGBT must be practical. Change management training can reduce bigotry, but it cannot eliminate it.

Now we need to discuss the hostile environment for LGBT employees that is prevalent throughout the Department of Defense. The fact is the only minority not considered a special emphasis group is LGBT. Legally, LGBT should be considered special emphasis, but is never given a seat at the table. The other special emphasis groups are allowed to have a sanctioned leadership caucus to advise and oversee their issues as well as determine their participation in a variety of diversity events. The purpose is to insure discrimination reduction and hate crime mitigation.

On July 14, 2009, DOD FED GLOBE sent the Department of Defense a letter requesting LGBT employees get a seat at the table as well as policy changes that were within our legal right to have. The basis for justification within the letter was laws, policies, and most importantly, evidence of anti-LGBT, biased-based actions within the Department of Defense to both civilian and military employees.

To date no response has been received and LGBT employees’ rich history as an equality rights movement is completely absent from all sanctioned Department of Defense diversity events.

Due to the existence of the hate-based bias, it is not only legally necessary for the Department of Defense to recognize LGBT as a special emphasis group, but also smart. Hate-based bias can result in unit dysfunction as well as bad public relations. Even if LGBT military members cannot admit they are LGBT, that does not give Department of Defense employees the right to harass and or endanger those they perceive as LGBT.

So the question is: “What is stopping the Department of Defense from inviting its LGBT employees to the table?” The answer is simple: prejudice.

The 11-month analysis intended to delay the repeal is an application of lipstick to cover up a very ugly pig. DADT does stereotype, demean and dehumanize all LGBT in the Department of Defense and aligned corporations. It does teach everyone that it is OK to hate LGBT.

In the words of Frank Kameny, “Gay is good,” and the time has come for the Department of Defense to teach its employees about LGBT in sanctioned diversity events.

L.S. Kove is executive director of DOD FED GLOBE, a nonprofit that advocates for and educates about LGBT employees of the Department of Defense. This commentary is based solely upon Ms. Kove’s opinion as the executive director of DOD FED GLOBE and it is not intended in any way, shape or form to represent the opine of her employer, the Department of Defense.