Saturday, May 29, 2010

RICHARD IVORY OP-ED: Why “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on its Way Out?

By Richard Ivory

In 1989, the navy ship USS Beleau Wood was en route from San Diego, California to its destination of Sebo, Japan. On board was a young Navy Private and radioman from Chicago, Illinois by the name of Allen Schindler. The Schindler family was known throughout Chicago Heights for the family’s long, stellar service in the Navy. That this long tradition would carry on throughout the years was more than expected. Allen R. Schindler, Jr.’s love for his nation and his family’s past record with the Navy made him a perfect fit.

Nevertheless, if anything, differentiated Allen’s service from that of his family members’ past experiences it was the unusual number of anti-gay harassments he endured from other male cadets. The comments, while benign at first, slowly became more violent in tone. In one incident a group of cadets motioned towards Private Schindler and screamed “There’s a faggot on this ship and he should die!” Comments like this and other harassing incidents forced Allen to bring multiple complaints through his chain of command. Despite this and other attempts, Allen’s calls for help were eventually ignored and the threats continued.

Perhaps out of a sense of helplessness or just youthful naiveté, Schindler made an unusual prank call on the secured lines which were echoed throughout the entire pacific fleet. The prank announcement was “2-Q-T-B-S-8″ (too cute to be straight). The immediate outcry from Navy superiors was swift! Schindler was ordered to appear before close to 300 Navy personnel where he was put on restrictive leave. The “consequence”, however, was to never occur for within days Private Allen Schindler was found brutally murdered in Japan.

According to media outlets, the body which was found in a bathroom had endured “at least four fatal injuries to the head, chest, and abdomen”. His head was crushed; ribs broken; and his penis cut. He had “sneaker-tread marks stamped on his forehead and chest “destroying “every organ in his body” leaving behind a nearly-unrecognizable corpse”. The medical team who reviewed the body was quoted as saying that Allen’s injuries were reminiscent of the damage done to a person “who’d been stomped by a horse”. After a thorough investigation by the Navy, two fellow Navy personnel were charged with the murder. One of the guilty parties Terry M. Helvey, when Navy investigators questioned him as to why he did it was quoted as saying “I hate homosexuals…I don’t regret it…I’d do it again…he deserves it!”

As the national debate turns its attention to the repeal of “Don’t ask don’t Tell”, stories like Private Allen Schindler’s underscore the deadly consequences of a policy that refuses to acknowledge what Barry Goldwater once called “a senseless attempt to stall the inevitable”.  
Stories like that of Private Allen Schindler are in no way unique and only underscore the deadly consequences of a policy which, under the pretense of maintaining unit cohesion and retention actually encouraged shame, self-denial and out right bigotry.

 The immediate repeal of “Don’t ask Don’t Tell” is only but a small token of consideration in our nation’s effort to undo some of the incalculable damage that this policy has had on both our nation’s security, and on the thousands of gay Americans, and families- like the Schindler’s- who have served and who continue to proudly serve our nation.

“Don’t ask Don’t Tell” at its core violates the very principles of liberty itself which are the very concepts our solders fight for every day. Serving openly does not mean flaunting ones sexuality in another’s’ face. What it means, to the contrary, is that all who serve- be they gay or straight- will be held to the same standards of civic and military propriety. If there are policies against public sexual behavior in the military then everyone should be held up to the same standard. Many naive supporters of “Don’t ask Don’t Tell” wrongly assume that the policy simply refers to a "public admission" of being homosexual. This assumption, however, is false. 

The policy goes much deeper, and creeps into the private lives of thousands of men and women who serve this nation. Unbeknownst to many, while the policy does not explicitly prohibit homosexuals from serving in the military it does prohibit “expressions of homosexuality”.  Such “expressions” are not reserved for military life on the base but also include off- base activities. It is in its inclusion of  "off-base activities" that the policy losses all sense of sanity. Clearly, if a person is gay, he or she will, at some point, seek companionship and friendship with others like themselves.

The policy, given its broad definition (which includes enough behaviors and gestures to entrap anyone gay or straight), violates basic privacy laws. In other words, if straight officers can go off- base and hold hands without being charged then gay soldiers should be given the same courtesy and should not have to fear the consequences of being exposed. Sexual identity should not be a reason for denying someone service to there nation. The only reason for denying someone service is if they are unable to perform the task before them.

To quote Senator Barry Goldwater again: “You don’t have to be straight in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.”

Richard Ivory is the Publisher and Founder, of, a blog that delves into urban issues from centrist perspective

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