According to Servicemembers United, the nation’s largest organization of gay and lesbian troops and veterans and their straight allies, new data shows that racial and ethnic minorities constituted an unusually large percentage of discharges under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) law in Fiscal Year 2008.
“We have always known that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law has a disproportionate impact on women and minorities in the military,” said Alexander Nicholson, a former U.S. Army interrogator and the executive director of Servicemembers United. “These new numbers, however, show that the problem is getting worse and that this policy has ultimately failed. Lawmakers have a responsibility to address this problem immediately, and the president should hasten the appointment of a new Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness who is qualified and willing to deal with this issue.”
The Department of Defense (DOD) discharge data, which included the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, revealed that out of 619 total DADT discharges in FY08 from these services, 279, or just over 45 percent, were non-white. The Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, however, reported at the beginning of FY08 that 71 percent of the active duty force was white. The Coast Guard, which did not provide a breakdown of its data, reported discharging another 21 servicemembers under DADT in FY08, bringing the overall number of DADT discharges for all services in FY08 to 640.
Women in the military were also hit especially hard by the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law again in FY08. While women comprise approximately 15 percent of the armed forces, they made up more than a third (34 percent) of DOD discharges under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in FY08.
The information was obtained by Servicemembers United directly from DOD through a Freedom of Information Act request. – by Nancy Ford