Exclusion hurts military

It might be gearing up for war, but the Marine Corps has decided that no matter how well they serve, gays aren’t good when it comes to fighting.

So when the Corps issued a “Stop-Loss” order this month, it excluded gays and lesbians. That is, most Marines are prevented from leaving the service for the next year – but not if they’re attracted to people of the same sex.

Gays and lesbians, it seems, are free to go.

It’s curious that the Marines refuse to overcome these vestiges of national prejudice even during a time of impending war. After all, the military has been the great equalizer, folding in blacks during the Civil War, and Japanese-Americans (even when their families were in internment camps) and women during World War II.

The ability to fly a bomber or shoot a missile should be more important than who you love.

The Marine Corps policy is not only discriminatory, it also opens a loophole. Don’t want to go overseas to war? Scared to face the threat of bio-terrorism? Just come out.

Charlie Moskos, who helped craft the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, recently identified this opening for soldiers and suggested that if the draft were re-instated, the hole should be sewn closed.

“You can’t use a gay ban with a draft because that would make it too easy for people to get out,” Moskos said.

Even without a draft, it makes no sense that the military is content to release gay and lesbian soldiers – and anyone who is willing to pretend to be gay and lesbian – just because some anonymous straight men and women are worried about them.

After Sept. 11, at least seven Arabic linguists and two Korean-language specialists were kicked out of the military because they were found to be gay. They wanted to continue to serve. They may have figured that the military – hurting for Arabic speakers – would keep them around anyway. They were wrong.

A record 1,250 gays and lesbians were discharged from the military in 2001, according to the service members’ Legal Defense Network. This is the highest number since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was instated in 1993.

How is this preserving military effectiveness?

As Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said, “For those who needed further evidence of how ill-advised the anti-gay military policy is, they now have it. Firing talented people who possess a scarce and sorely needed skill because some people don’t like their choice of social companions puts prejudice ahead of national security.”

The Marine Corps should change its policy. Preserving our national security is more important than preserving prejudice.

Jennifer Vanasco is a columnist in Chicago with the Progressive Media Project