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'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Hits Lesbians Hardest

Aug 16, 2010 – 11:54 AM
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Andrea Stone

Andrea Stone Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Aug. 16) -- The military is throwing out women disproportionately under its "don't ask, don't tell" policy, even as the number of service members discharged for being gay reached a new low last year.

According to Pentagon statistics released by the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, 428 service members were discharged in 2009 under the policy that President Barack Obama has vowed to end. That's the lowest number since the policy began in 1994 and continues a steady decline that began after the 9/11 attacks.

Meanwhile, the Army lost one of its top West Point cadets this past week when Katherine Miller, a lesbian, resigned because of the policy.

More than 13,500 gays and lesbians have been discharged since the policy began. In 2001, the peak year for discharges, 1,273 were removed from the military for being gay.

As in past years, the policy affected women in greater numbers than men:

Army: Lesbians accounted for 48 percent of 195 discharges under the don't-ask, don't-tell policy, even though women make up only 14 percent of the force. That's up from 2008, when women represented 36 percent of Army discharges under the policy.

Air Force: More than half, 51 percent, of those discharged were women, who make up 20 percent of the service.

Marines: Nearly one in four, or 23 percent, of discharges under the policy were women, who make up just 6 percent of the Marines. That's up from 18 percent the year before.

Navy: The sea service discharged 22 women, or 27 percent of the total ousted for being gay. Women comprise 14 percent of naval personnel.

The data also showed that in the midst of two wars, the military continued to discharge highly trained service members in mission-critical areas. Among those ousted for being gay: seven combat engineers, eight linguists, 20 infantrymen and 16 medical aides.

"These data show, yet again, that 'don't ask, don't tell' undermines national security," said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a gay-rights advocacy group that focuses on military issues. "Why are we firing linguists and infantrymen in the middle of two wars?"

The statistics were released a day after the deadline for service members to return surveys on the Pentagon policy. Despite sending out 400,000 questionnaires, just over one in four were returned. The results will be considered by a Pentagon working group that will report its recommendations on how to lift the policy no later than Dec. 1.

The numbers don't include Miller, a sophomore from Findlay, Ohio, who was ninth-ranked in her class of more than 1,100. She said the law against gays serving openly in the military led her to resign.

"I intend for my resignation to offer a concrete example of the consequences of a failed law and social policy," she wrote, according to The Associated Press.

Miller has a grade point average of 3.829 out of 4.0 after two years, ABC News pointed out. She attended the U.S. Army Airborne School and has written for a Washington Post blog.
Filed under: Nation, Politics
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