Don't Ask Again, Don't Tell Again

A new chapter in the 'don't ask, don't tell' debate

| May 17, 2007

When Congress and President Clinton reached the 'don't ask, don't tell' compromise about gays and lesbians in the military in 1993, folks on both sides of the issue were left unsatisfied. Many warned that the head-in-the-sand policy would lead to more problems, but they probably didn't foresee the strange case of Jason Knight. As Barbara Wilcox reports for the Advocate Knight was recalled to duty after being discharged for violating 'don't ask, don't tell,' only to be discharged again for talking about it with the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

When Jason Knight announced to the Navy after four years of service that he was gay back in 2004, the announcement seemingly ended his military career, Joseph Giordono reports for Stars and Stripes. Knight was discharged and the Navy quickly recouped his $13,000 sign-on bonus. That should have been the end of it, but nine months later the Navy recalled him for a one-year tour of duty in Kuwait. Then, according to the Advocate, just days after he spoke openly about the strange situation to Stars and Stripes, Knight received word that he was to be discharged again, just weeks shy of the end of his latest tour.

Some have claimed that Knight's case points to 'an unwritten change in policy to keep more gay servicemembers in the ranks at a time of war,' Starts and Stripes' Giordono reports. According to Pentagon statistics, 'don't ask, don't tell' discharges have seen a steep decline since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and have been holding at comparatively low levels since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Giordono writes that after reaching a peak of 1,273 discharges in 2001, this past year boasted the lowest number of discharges in the policy's 13-year history: only 612.

With demands to keep troop levels steady in an unpopular war, politicians and even some military insiders are advocating an official change in policy to allow openly gay and lesbian soldiers to serve. Politicians have tried to tiptoe around the issue publicly, but some presidential candidates, including Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), according to the Des Moines Register, have brought the debate to the fore. 'Right now, we are discharging soldiers -- at a time when we don't have enough people to do the missions we need around the world -- because they're gay,' Clinton said. 'Not because they have done anything, but just because they are gay.'

Go there >> Gay Sailor Called Back to Active Duty

Go there, too >> Recalled Sailor to Be Discharged Again