An official military spokesperson has acknowledged that the Pentagon is sending openly gay service members into combat in Iraq, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military.
“The bottom line is some people are using sexual orientation to avoid deployment,” Kim Waldron, spokesperson for the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, said in a statement. “Soin this case, with the Reserve and Guard forces, if a soldier ‘tells,’ they still have to go to war and the homosexual issue is postponed until they return to the U.S. and the unit is demobilized.”
Waldron’s statements were first reported by the CSSMM, a think tank for the University of California, Santa Barbara and later written on in Friday’s edition of the Washington Blade.
Waldron’s comments follow the discovery of a controversial regulation halting the discharge of gay soldiers in units that are about to be mobilized.
That regulation, which is discussed in a 1999 “Reserve Component Unit Commander’s Handbook” and still in effect, states that if a discharge for homosexual conduct is requested “prior to the unit’s receipt of alert notification, discharge isn’t authorized. Member will enter (active duty) with the unit.”
That document was obtained by researchers at CSSMM.
While “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy remains in effect, Waldon’s acknowledgment suggests that in some cases, the Pentagon ignores the law by retaining service members who say that they are gay.
Statistics confirm that during the present war, as has been the case in every war since World War II, gay discharges have fallen during the conflict and then increased during peacetime, according to CSSMM.
However, prior to Waldron’s statement, official spokespersons had denied that the military intentionally sends gays to fight despite the existence of a gay ban.
According to Aaron Belkin, Director of the CSSMM, the military “has claimed for years that allowing openly gay and lesbian service members to serve in uniform would undermine unit cohesion. During wartime, however, when cohesion is most important, the Pentagon retains gays and lesbians.”