Half of US Air Force gay ban dismissals are women
New figures obtained by an organisation dedicated to fighting the ban on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in the US Armed Forces show that women are disproportionately affected.
627 people were discharged last year from the country’s military under a law introduced in 1993 referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
In the US Army, women make up 14% of soldiers but 46% of those dismissed in 2007 under DADT.
In the US Air Force they were 49% of the dismissals, but only 20% of personnel are women.
“Women make up 15 percent of the armed forces, so to find they represent nearly 50 percent of Army and Air Force discharges under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is shocking,” Aubrey Sarvis of the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network told the New York Times.
“Women in particular have been caught in the crosshairs of this counterproductive law.”
Retired high-ranking military leaders, such as former Joint Chiefs Chairman John Shalikashvili and Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, have called for an end to the DADT law, which is estimated to have cost American taxpayers more than $364m (£182m) since its inception.
More than 12,000 men and women have been dismissed since 1993.
An estimated 65,000 lesbian and gay service members serve on active duty and in the reserves of the United States military, according to the SLDN, which is a non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organisation dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel.
The most senior US military veteran in the House of Representatives has called for an end to the ban.
Democrat Congressman Joe Sestak, who served 31 years in the Navy, retiring with the rank of three-star Admiral, is one of seventeen veterans in Congress who want to repeal the law.
Nearly 150 of his Congressional colleagues have lent their support to the Military Readiness Enhancement Act which would repeal the law and allow lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel to serve openly.
“It is easy for me to see why “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be repealed,” said Congressman Sestak.
“Once you have served in war and faced danger with a gay service member, how can you come home and say gay people should not enjoy equal rights?”
The issue of gays and lesbians serving in the Armed Forces still divides politicians in the US.
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For the rest of the countries in the NATO alliance, the claims and counter-claims about unit cohesion and the “influence” of gays on fighting men seem like echoes from another time.
The Dutch lifted their ban on gays in 1974, Australia followed in 1992 and Canada soon after.
Gay, lesbian and bisexual people have served openly in the British Armed Forces since 2000.
Nearly all other Western nations allow openly gay, bisexual and lesbian people to serve openly.
In the UK the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force not only allow gay people to serve but actively supports them.
The Navy and Air Force are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme, a good practice forum where employers work with Stonewall and each other, to promote lesbian, gay and bisexual equality in the workplace.