EDITORIAL: 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' unfair to Oklahoma servicemembers
Our View: A “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule for Oklahoma National Guard is wasteful and disrespectful to guardsmen.
Gays and lesbians soon could be restricted from serving in Oklahoma’s National Guard, if a Monday vote by the House Veteran and Military Affairs Committee sends HB 2195 to the whole House for a vote.
WRITE TO YOUR CONGRESSMAN
Senator John Sparks, D - firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Emily Virgin, D - email@example.com
House Veteran and Military Affairs Committee:
Rep. Gary W. Banz - firstname.lastname@example.org (405-557-7395)
Rep. John Enns - email@example.com (405-557-7321)
Rep. Randy McDaniel - firstname.lastname@example.org (405-557-7409)
Rep. Dustin Roberts - email@example.com (405-557-7366)
Rep. John Bennett - firstname.lastname@example.org (405-557-7315)
Rep. Chuck Hoskin - email@example.com (405-557-7319)
Rep. Eric Proctor - firstname.lastname@example.org (405-557-7410)
Rep. Aaron Stiles - email@example.com (405-557-7386)
Rep. Ann Coody - firstname.lastname@example.org (405-557-7398)
Rep. Scott Inman - email@example.com (405-557-7370)
Rep. Paul D. Roan - firstname.lastname@example.org (405-557-7308)
The bill — proposed by Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City — would return the eligibility requirements for serving in the Oklahoma National Guard to those in place before the federal repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
While this would not mean a return to the more damaging policy before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which allowed commanders to inquire directly about a servicemember’s sexual conduct, it still would do grievous damage to the state’s military readiness.
The primary concerns with this policy are the same as they were before the national repeal: wasted money and personnel.
The federal policy cost the U.S. military more than $383.3 million in investigation costs and the recruitment and training of replacements, according to the Government Accountability Office.
More than 13,500 soldiers were discharged under the policy, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. Of those, more than 750 were mission-critical and more than 320 had skills in desperately needed languages.
How much taxpayer money will Oklahoma waste on its own version of the policy? And wouldn’t that money be better put to use by expanding education opportunities, ensuring affordable health care and supporting the job market so that our servicemembers can return to a stronger Oklahoma?
Even worse, the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has expressed concern that the federal government could, and would, remove funding from the state’s National Guard if this bill passes. So not only would enforcement of this discriminatory policy cost money the state doesn’t have to spare, it could lose Oklahoma federal funding.
When a similar bill was debated (and defeated) in Virginia last year, opponents pointed out that National Guardsmen often serve overseas alongside guardsmen from other states. It would be nearly impossible — or, at least, a significant waste of resources — to enforce different regulations for different troops in a war zone.
Which bring us, of course, to the primary reason this bill is wrong for Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s National Guardsmen serve alongside other soldiers in war zones, and they are the first responders to disasters at home. Here and abroad, they put their safety and their lives at risk to protect their fellow Oklahomans.
Don’t we all owe them the same protection? Protection from witch hunts, prying questions and the need to lie about their own identities in order to serve?
In the end, it’s simple: Whom soldiers choose to have sex with has no bearing on their ability to do their jobs. And if the countless national surveys hold true in Oklahoma, it has no bearing on their fellow servicemembers’ ability to respect and work with them either.
We thought this matter was settled in 2010. If you agree that every Oklahoman has a right to serve and if you respect the professionalism of your National Guardsmen, contact your legislators today and demand they vote against this regressive bill.
Call the legislators on the Veteran and Military Affairs Committee to urge them to vote against this bill on Monday. Then contact your local legislators and urge them to vote against it if it makes it to the floor.